The Biden administration has managed to persuade the Palestinian Authority to withdraw its support for a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate end to settlement activity, after convincing Israel to take a handful of measures deterring its presence in the west to further consolidate temporarily holding back the bank, four sources told the Times of Israel on Sunday.
However, according to an Israeli official, those measures do not include delaying plans for about 10,000 new settlement houses deep in the West Bank, which will be submitted Wednesday and Thursday to the Defense Ministry’s body responsible for approving such construction.
Instead, Israel has agreed not to approve any more settlement houses for several months — something it had no intention of doing anyway, since the Defense Ministry’s civil administration traditionally meets every three months, the Israeli official said.
Israel has also agreed to suspend the demolitions and displacement of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank for several months, during which time it has agreed to reduce military incursions into PA-controlled Area A of the West Bank, two US -US and Palestinian officials said, confirming a report on the Walla news site.
For its part, Ramallah has agreed to withdraw its support for a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate halt to Israeli settlement activity, which is due to be voted on Monday. The US has instead agreed to back a symbolic, non-binding presidential statement by Security Council members to the same effect, which will also include a condemnation of terrorist attacks and violence on both sides, two senior UN diplomats said. It would be the first such statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in nine years.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also agreed to accept a US plan to increase the PA’s security presence in the northern West Bank, where the IDF has increased operations and has regularly incited deadly clashes with Palestinians in recent months.
As part of efforts to bring Abbas on board, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told him the US would invite him to the White House for a meeting with US President Joe Biden later this year, a Palestinian official said.
Meanwhile, a US official and a Middle Eastern diplomat told the Times of Israel last week that the Biden administration has shelved plans to extend a White House invitation to Netanyahu because of concerns about some of the hardline government’s early policy proposals and that the US plans to wait and see how events unfold on the ground during Ramallah before tackling the issue again.
On November 7, 2022, Israeli authorities will demolish a building in East Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood that was built without a permit. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
But the commitments mark a modest breakthrough after months of efforts by the Biden administration to urge Israelis and Palestinians to take steps to ease tensions, especially with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaching in late March.
The US is working intensively with Israeli and Palestinian leaders amid a surge in violence that has claimed the lives of 11 Israelis in terrorist attacks and nearly 50 Palestinians since the beginning of the year – most of them in clashes with soldiers, but some in more ambiguous circumstances .
While the US is said to have made strides in getting the sides to end their controversial activities beyond the Green Line and at the UN following visits by White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month, The Things began to unravel when a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into a bus stop in east Jerusalem on February 10, killing three people, including brothers aged 6 and 8.
Israel responded days later by approving the legalization of nine outposts – many on private Palestinian land – and greenlit plans for about 10,000 settlement homes for further development this week, in what would be the largest package of projects ever in a single was approved session.
The PA responded by urging the UN Security Council to pass a resolution condemning the decision. The UAE took up the gauntlet and drafted a resolution demanding an immediate halt to settlement activity, putting the US in an awkward position as it also aggressively opposed Israel’s decision last Sunday.
Although the Biden administration supports the decision in principle, it has long maintained that the UN is not the appropriate forum for deciding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Blinken appeared to have made progress over the weekend after calls with Netanyahu and Abbas in a last-ditch effort to get the sides to a compromise.
The high-level commitment paid off on Sunday as both sides agreed to temporarily back away from their original plans.
A Palestinian official clarified that the situation is still in flux and that Ramallah will “respond to any unilateral action by Israel.”
The US official conceded that there was no set period of time for how long the sides would agree to withhold moves beyond the Green Line and at the United Nations, but they said the government “continues to work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.” will work together in order to keep calm and keep alive the prospects for a two-state solution.”