A delegation of Palestinian intelligence officials are in Washington for talks with the CIA, the Axios news site reported Sunday, marking a rare break in Ramallah’s boycott of US officials.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas revealed details of the delegation’s trip during talks with Israeli Knesset members in a meeting at his office in Ramallah, Axios reported, citing two participants in the meeting.
The Palestinians have been boycotting the Trump administration in anger after the US shifted course and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December and later moved their embassy there from Tel Aviv. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
The report comes two days after the Trump administration announced it was cutting all funding for the UN refugee agency that aids Palestinians.
Significantly, the US did not cut aid that goes to the Palestinian security forces and Abbas told the participants of the meeting that it is important to him to maintain security coordination and intelligence sharing with the US.
Despite longstanding tensions with Israel, security coordination between the Palestinian security forces and the IDF in the West Bank is very close and a key component of the relationship between the two sides.
The delegation to the US was being lead by Majed Faraj, head of the PA’s General Intelligence Service, Axios said, noting that he was also in the US to receive unspecified medical treatment.
This is not the first time Faraj has met with top US officials since the boycott began. Faraj reportedly met then-CIA director Mike Pompeo in April, shortly before Pompeo became Secretary of State.
Faraj, one of the Abbas’s closest associates, is considered a friend of Pompeo, and the two reportedly met last year, after Trump was sworn in as president.
The US announced on Friday that it would cut nearly $300 million in planned funding for the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), castigating the agency for its practices, and will no longer provide funding at all.
The move announced by the US drew swift condemnation from Palestinians and warnings from the agency’s administrators.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said Saturday that the Palestinian leadership was considering going to the UN General Assembly and Security Council in a bid to get the US to reverse its decision.
A day earlier, he described the move as a “flagrant assault against the Palestinian people and a defiance of UN resolutions.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long called for the agency to be shut down.