Aug 31, 2022 - World

U.S. senior diplomat to visit Jerusalem, Ramallah for talks with Israelis, Palestinians

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP via Getty Images

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP via Getty Images

Barbara Leaf, the State Department’s most senior diplomat for the Middle East, will arrive in Israel on Thursday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Israeli and Palestinian officials told Axios.

Why it matters: Leaf's visit comes as the U.S. tries to convince Palestinian leadership, which is frustrated with the diplomatic stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, not to pursue a bid at the UN Security Council for full UN membership.

Driving the news: Hady Amr, the State Department’s point person on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arrived in Jerusalem on Tuesday to prepare Leaf’s visit, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

  • Palestinian officials in recent days doubled down on their intention to pursue a vote at the Security Council, saying they will push for it even though they know the U.S. will veto it.
  • According to Palestinian officials, President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to start the process immediately after his speech at the UN General Assembly, which starts on Sept. 20.

Between the lines: Palestinian officials were disappointed that President Biden's visit in July didn’t result in any political deliverables.

  • A potential UN bid would be a way for Abbas to try to win points domestically, especially as the Palestinian Authority continues to grow weaker amid increased tensions in the occupied West Bank.

The big picture: The Biden administration wants to de-escalate the situation on the ground in the West Bank, but also avoid a showdown with the Palestinians at the UN and the need to use its veto power.

  • The U.S. wants Israel to help by implementing several of the steps it committed to during Biden’s trip, including easing delays Palestinians experience when traveling through the Allenby bridge and allowing the installation of 4G cellular networks in the West Bank.

What’s next: After her meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Leaf is expected to travel to Jordan to meet King Abdullah II.

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