Jan 28, 2024 - World

Scoop: Arab officials held secret meeting to discuss plans for post-war Gaza

Palestinian Hamada Abu Salima, 59, lives in a tent Sunday on the ruins of his house that was destroyed by Israeli raids, which killed 10 members of his family in Rafah, Gaza. Photo: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

Senior national security officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority secretly met in Riyadh 10 days ago to coordinate plans for the day after the war in Gaza and discuss ways to involve a revitalized Palestinian Authority in governing there, three sources with knowledge of the meeting told Axios.

Why it matters: The meeting is another sign of the increased coordination between Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority in recent months, especially since the war in Gaza started.

  • The Palestinian Authority and its Arab allies are increasingly discussing plans for the day after the conflict ends but the Israeli government has said little about how it sees Gaza being governed if it achieves its goal of defeating Hamas.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes allowing the Palestinian Authority to have a role in Gaza but hasn't proposed an alternative. Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Gen. Herzi Halevi warned the Israeli security cabinet that the military gains in Gaza could go to waste without an Israeli diplomatic plan for the day after.

Behind the scenes: The meeting in Riyadh was hosted by Saudi Arabia's national security adviser Musaed bin Mohammed al-Aiban. The other participants were the director of Palestinian general intelligence service Majed Faraj and his Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts, the sources said.

  • Two sources said U.S. and Israeli officials were briefed about the meeting and its contents by some of the participants.
  • The Saudi, Egyptian and Jordanian security chiefs told Faraj the Palestinian Authority needs to conduct serious reforms that will enable it to revitalize its political leadership, the sources said.
  • One of the requests they made was that if a new Palestinian government is formed, the new prime minister will receive some of the authority that in recent years was centralized under Palestinian President Abbas.
  • The Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians stressed these reforms are needed for the Palestinian Authority to return to governing Gaza after a post-war transition period, one source said.
  • Saudi Arabia's national security adviser said at the meeting that the kingdom is still interested in moving forward with normalization with Israel in return for practical and irrevocable steps by Israel that would create a path towards a Palestinian state, even if such a state won't be established immediately.
  • The Saudi Arabian and Jordanian embassies in Washington declined to comment. Palestinian and Egyptian officials didn't respond to requests for comment.

The big picture: White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at the World Economic Forum earlier this month that the Biden administration's strategy for post-war Gaza is to link normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia to the creation of a pathway for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

  • The Biden administration has been pressing the Palestinian Authority to conduct reforms and have a role in the Gaza strip while pushing Netanyahu to agree to discuss the post-war plan for Gaza and how the Palestinian Authority could be part of a future government there.
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