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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Exclusive: Arab Officials’ Covert Meeting on Post-War Gaza Plans

Senior officials responsible for national security in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority held a clandestine meeting in Riyadh a week and a half ago to coordinate strategies for the post-war scenario in Gaza. Three sources, knowledgeable about the gathering, disclosed this information to Axios.

Significance: The meeting underscores the growing collaboration between Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority, particularly since the onset of the conflict in Gaza. While the Palestinian Authority and its Arab allies actively discuss plans for the aftermath of the conflict, the Israeli government has been relatively reticent about its vision for governing Gaza if it achieves its objective of defeating Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes granting a role to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza without proposing an alternative. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, cautioned the security cabinet that military gains in Gaza could be squandered without a diplomatic plan for the post-war period.

Behind the scenes: The gathering in Riyadh was hosted by Saudi Arabia’s National Security Adviser, Musaed bin Mohammed al-Aiban. Other attendees included Majed Faraj, Director of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, as well as counterparts from Egypt and Jordan, according to the sources.

U.S. and Israeli officials were reportedly briefed on the meeting and its contents by some participants.

The security chiefs from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan urged Faraj to implement substantial reforms within the Palestinian Authority to reinvigorate its political leadership. One of their requests was for a new Palestinian government to distribute some of the authority that had been centralized under President Abbas in recent years.

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The need for these reforms was emphasized by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, who conveyed that such changes are essential for the Palestinian Authority to resume governance in Gaza during a post-war transitional period.

Saudi Arabia’s National Security Adviser expressed the kingdom’s ongoing interest in advancing normalization with Israel, contingent on practical and irreversible steps by Israel. These steps would pave the way for a Palestinian state, even if its establishment is not immediate.

Responses: The Saudi Arabian and Jordanian embassies in Washington declined to comment, while Palestinian and Egyptian officials did not respond to requests for comments.

Broader context: White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, during the World Economic Forum, stated that the Biden administration’s post-war strategy for Gaza involves linking normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia to the establishment of a pathway for a Palestinian state.

The Biden administration is pressing the Palestinian Authority for reforms and a role in Gaza, concurrently urging Netanyahu to engage in discussions about the post-war plan for Gaza and the potential involvement of the Palestinian Authority in a future government there.

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