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Report: US attempt at Israeli-Palestinian talks stalls due to coalition crisis

Reported initiative to bring together security officials would have seen discussions focused on security and economic cooperation

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

US President Joe Biden listens during a meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office at the White House. on August 27, 2021. in Washington, DC. (Pool/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP)
US President Joe Biden listens during a meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office at the White House. on August 27, 2021. in Washington, DC. (Pool/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP)

US President Joe Biden’s administration recently raised the notion of a top-level meeting between Israelis and Palestinians in the White House, Axios reported Thursday, but the initiative has seemingly stalled amid political turmoil in Jerusalem.

The report, citing multiple US and Israeli officials, said the possibility of such a meeting had been raised several times by the US over the past few months, and was conveyed to the Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, and Jordanians.

It noted that the US attempt to negotiate such a meeting could be considered the most active stance the Biden administration has taken in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since last year’s 11-day war in Gaza.

But with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition in crisis, he is seen as unlikely to have the political capital to engage in diplomacy with the Palestinians.

According to the report, discussions of the potential meeting have died out in recent weeks.

Bennett has stated before that his divided coalition would not advance the issue of a two-state solution, partly due to internal disagreements and opposing ideologies.

But the Israeli government has taken steps to strengthen the Palestinian Authority since Bennett’s right-center-left-Arab alliance was sworn in on June 13, 2021.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives for his first cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on June 20, 2021. (Emmanuel Dunand/Pool Photo via AP)

That has been reflected in increased work permits for Palestinians from Gaza, legalizing the status of thousands of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank and bolstering the Palestinian Authority financially.

Another example was the meeting between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Gantz’s home in Rosh Ha’ayin in December last year, marking the first time the Palestinian leader held talks with a senior Israeli official in Israel in over a decade.

The Israeli-Palestinian meeting in Washington was first suggested by the US in December, Axios noted, shortly after the Gantz-Abbas meeting.

The US initiative aimed to bring together national security advisors, rather than heads of state, and to focus on security and economic cooperation rather than any negotiations toward a Palestinian state.

Left: Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File); Right: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool, File)

“We have ongoing discussions with all of our Middle East partners on increasing regional integration to tackle shared challenges. These discussions have been wholly constructive,” a senior Biden administration official told Axios.

The US had hoped that such a meeting, backed by Egypt and Jordan, would serve as a confidence-building measure and would indicate to Abbas that the US is still interested in advancing the Palestinian issue, while allowing Bennett the maneuverability of saying it didn’t constitute political negotiations.

But even that seems unlikely with Bennett’s government now facing the threat of collapse.

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