- Iman Erekat
- BBC Arabic – Ramallah
On the evening of Sunday, January 23, the home of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid witnessed a meeting with him and Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh, which came, according to Israeli media, under the coordination of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Official statements about the meeting, the latest in a series of recent meetings between Palestinian and Israeli officials, were scant. However, a tweet by Palestinian Minister Hussein al-Sheikh revealed that the meeting “discussed political and bilateral issues,” and stressed “the need to find a political horizon based on international legitimacy.”
no political files
The Lapid-Sheikh meeting follows two previous meetings, between Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The first meeting was held last August in the city of Ramallah, and was the first official meeting of its kind after a break of more than ten years in similar meetings between the two sides. At that time, the meeting discussed security, civil and economic developments, and the maintenance of security coordination between the two sides. Minister Gantz promised at the time to provide civil and economic facilities to the Palestinians that contribute to achieving the desired stability in the region.
The first results of this August meeting were announced by Prime Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, who issued a statement in which he said that Israel had decided to grant the right of “unification” to 5,000 Palestinian families, as a first payment out of 10,000 “unification” transactions, adding that Israel would work To settle their status, including granting identities and changing addresses to Palestinians in the Palestinian territories, with the aim of ending their file that has been stuck for years.
After his meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Sheikh announced on Sunday evening that a new batch of 500 Palestinian families had obtained Palestinian ID cards.
These developments, which are announced following the meetings of Palestinian and Israeli officials, are an indication of the benefits that can emerge from these meetings in the interest of facilitating the daily reality of the Palestinian people.
However, the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian meetings comes in light of repeated statements by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, during which he affirmed his refusal to hold a direct meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, as well as his refusal to discuss the outstanding political files between the two sides.
Those positions of the Israeli Prime Minister confirm to those who follow the results of the recent Israeli-Palestinian meetings that they are still limited to discussing economic, security and civil files only.
The last Lapid-Sheikh meeting was denounced by Hamas, whose spokesman Abdel-Latif al-Qanou said, “The Lapid-Sheikh meeting reflects a state of national decline that the Palestinian Authority has reached.”
Al-Qanoua added in press statements that the movement considers “the continuation of these absurd meetings with the leaders of the occupation a betrayal of the sacrifices of the Palestinian people,” calling on the Palestinian Authority to stop meetings and security coordination with Israel immediately.
As for Islamic Jihad, it said in a statement that these meetings “give a cover for the Israeli plans that target the entire Palestinian cause.”
The continuation of the Israeli and Palestinian meetings, without announcing them or prior coordination with the factions of the Liberation Organization, constitutes an additional reason for the rejection of their results by the Palestinian factions, according to the Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, Mustafa Barghouti.
Barghouti told the BBC, “The ongoing meetings perpetuate the idea that the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel is only one of security coordination and weak economic facilities, the marginalization of political issues and the reality of the occupation and ways to end it.”
These positions come in light of “the unease of a number of Palestinian factions,” as Barghouti put it, with the developments of the Palestinian dialogue in Algeria, and the lack of papers presented by each Palestinian faction with a vision capable of bridging the internal rift, despite the Algerian president’s recent initiative to launch an inclusive Palestinian dialogue that achieves Palestinian reconciliation .
According to statements by Hamas officials, the movement’s vision for a solution is to reconstitute the Palestine Liberation Organization and hold comprehensive elections, while rejecting any preconditions for dialogue.
On the other hand, media reports indicate that Fatah is sticking to the condition of forming a national unity government in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions, which means that Hamas agrees to all relevant resolutions, including the Oslo Agreement, as a first step, after which elections will be held.
While the Palestinian Authority praises the results of its meetings with Israeli officials and stresses the need to create a serious political horizon that leads all parties to a peace process that ends the ongoing conflict by applying the two-state solution, some see the Palestinian Authority’s policy as a dangerous reflection on its role in its street and the future of internal reconciliation.
In turn, Palestinian political analyst Khalil Shaheen ruled out, in an interview with the BBC, that the Palestinian Authority, and in particular President Mahmoud Abbas, intends to proceed at this stage “on a path that leads to Palestinian national reconciliation.”
Shaheen indicated his belief that internal reconciliation, if it occurs, will constitute an additional burden on President Abbas’ decision-making ability, adding that “President Abbas prefers to continue with the same political, security and economic relations with Israel.”