Sep 7, 2022 - World

Palestinian official: Full UN membership is "best way to keep two-state solution alive"

A protester waves Palestinian flags in front of Israeli soldiers in the village of Beit Lid in the occupied West Bank on Aug. 26. Photo:
A protester waves Palestinian flags in front of Israeli soldiers in the village of Beit Lid in the occupied West Bank on Aug. 26. Photo: Jaafar Ashityeh/AFP via Getty Images

Barbara Leaf, the U.S. State Department’s most senior diplomat for the Middle East, had difficult meetings last week with Palestinian officials in Ramallah, Israeli and Palestinian officials say.

State of play: The Biden administration is trying to convince Palestinian leadership not to pursue a bid at the UN Security Council for full UN membership.

  • The Biden administration also wants the PA to do more to restore control of security forces in several West Bank cities.

The big picture: Leaf's visit took place as the Palestinian leadership's frustration grows over U.S. policy in the region. But she did not meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which was unusual.

  • Palestinian leaders have expressed disappointment that President Biden's recent visit to the region ended with no political results for the Palestinians.

Behind the scenes: Leaf met with Abbas’ No. 2, Hussein al-Sheikh, and the director of the Palestinian intelligence service Majed Faraj.

  • Al-Sheikh told Axios Leaf stressed the Biden administration’s position against a Palestinian move at the UN Security Council.
  • “We told Leaf that amid the stalemate in the peace process, gaining full member status at the UN for Palestine was the best way to keep the two-state solution alive. The Biden administration doesn’t see it that way, but we continue to talk about it. There is still time," he said.

Leaf told Abbas’ aides that a move in the UN is not what’s going to help them regain control in cities like Jenin and Nablus, where armed groups have increasingly gained a foothold.

  • Al-Sheikh said Palestinian officials responded by saying the U.S. needs to "press Israel to stop its unilateral steps on the ground and its incursions into Palestinian cities."

Al-Sheikh confirmed that Leaf asked for a meeting with Abbas, but claimed the meeting didn’t happen because of the Palestinian president’s busy schedule. "I apologized to Leaf and told her it wasn’t intentional and she understood," he said.

  • A senior Israeli official claimed Abbas didn't meet with Leaf to signal his disappointment that she came with no new U.S. policy positions.

What they're saying: Al-Sheikh rejected the Israeli claims that the weakening of the Palestinian security forces is the reason for the increased violence in the West Bank.

  • He blamed nightly incursions by the Israeli military into Palestinian cities.
  • “They think the IDF will operate during the night and we will operate during the day? We can’t function when the Israeli military enters our cities every day arresting people and killing people. What do they expect?" al-Sheikh said.

Al-Sheikh added that Israel says it wants to strengthen the Palestinian Authority but does the opposite. He said the PA proposed that Israel mutually halt all unilateral steps like incursions in order to improve the atmosphere but the Israelis refused.

  • "Israel is the one who weakens the Palestinian Authority by choking it economically and then it complains that our security forces are weak. We have been telling the Israelis for a year now their actions weaken the Palestinian Authority and lead to an escalation."

Go deeper: U.S. urges Israel to take steps to stabilize Palestinian Authority

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