The Palestinians made the request for the private communication line, according to the reports.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a secret backchannel to the Palestinian Authority that was set up even before he took office, journalist Barak Ravid reported Monday on Walla News and Axios.
Palestinian Minister for Civilian Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh, who has close ties with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, made the request for a private communications line through American officials almost two months ago, the report said. Netanyahu treated the request seriously, appointing confidante Tzachi Hanegbi, head of the National Security Council, to be his go-between.
Al-Sheikh and Hanegbi have spoken several times on the phone and a few times in person, focusing mainly on “day-to-day issues” in an attempt to lower tensions between the two sides, according to the report.
The latest meeting several days reportedly focused on diplomatic issues, leading to the pulling of a legally binding, anti-Israel resolution at the UN in exchange for settlement concessions. Nevertheless, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a statement, formulated by the PA and presented by the UAE, strongly opposing Israel’s construction and expansion of settlements.
Other diplomatic sources credited the U.S. with convincing both sides to agree in principle to a six-month freeze in any unilateral action they might take.
On Monday, without mentioning the backchannel, Hanegbi confirmed to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem that quiet PA discussions have been held “with the Americans and also with us on creating some kind of a new environment by stopping the unilateral steps that were taken in recent months. We are ready for it.”
Hanegbi specifically mentioned Jerusalem’s anger over the PA’s unilateral lawfare against Israel in forums such as the International Criminal Court of Justice, which recently agreed to a PA request to issue a ruling regarding the legal consequences of Israel’s alleged “prolonged occupation” of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
According to the UN statement, the Palestinians have a commitment until August not to pursue action against Israel at the UN and other international bodies such as the World Court, the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Council.
Abbas, meanwhile, wants the IDF to stop its constant anti-terror raids into places such as Jenin and Nablus, he said. Abbas was told that Israel must continue because the PA’s security services “don’t do it themselves,” but would be “happy to help” the PA regain control over their cities.
According to the report, it is unclear whether the Otzma Yehudit and Religious Zionism parties in the coalition were informed of the backchannel’s discussions. These more right-wing members of the coalition are not interested in the PA’s continued existence as they say it is an enemy of the State of Israel.
They are also pushing hard for the legalization of dozens more settlements, including some that have been in existence for decades, as independent villages or new neighborhoods of older communities.
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