Jason Greenblatt, the United States' (US) Middle East envoy for peace, has announced that he has held meetings with leaders and officials within the Palestinian Authority (PA) "in their personal capacity."
In an interview with the US-based Arabic news channel Al-Hurra today, Greenblatt revealed that the meetings have been conducted in secret due to recent disagreements and tenses in relations between the US and the PA.
The strain in relations started primarily when US President Donald Trump announced his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017. The incident was a direct move against the stance of PA and other Arab states who consider East Jerusalem to be the capital of the future Palestinian state. This infuriated the PA and resulted in it no longer regarding the US as a suitable mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Trump administration, however, proceeded with its drawing up of a political and economic peace plan for the ongoing conflict, with Greenblatt and Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner being the masterminds of what they have labelled the "deal of the century". The economic aspects of the proposal were detailed and presented at a conference held in Manama, Bahrain, in June which was attended by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Morocco, Jordan and Egypt. The PA, however, along with Kuwait, boycotted the meeting and accused the US of offering a plan which liquidated Palestinian rights.
Greenblatt stated that "We were careful not to reveal who we were talking to, and to talk to the Palestinians all the time." Due to the PA's public opposition to the deal and to US mediation in general, the Palestinian officials have been fearful of their identity being exposed and of seeming to betray the Palestinian cause's firm stance against US bias. "Everyone, when he leaves the office, asks me not to reveal his identity. This is unfortunate, but this is the truth. They give us hope that we can overcome the conflict and are interested in resolving the conflict, but they do not talk."
Greenblatt added that the doors are always open for officials to communicate with the administration, urging as much Palestinian support as possible in order to give weight to the deal openly rejected by all Palestinian factions. Despite the public condemnation, however, there have been secret overtures from within the upper echelons of the PA in Ramallah which have been leaked by Israeli media, showing private support for the deal and opposition to the boycott on the Trump administration.
He also announced his surety that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will eventually accept the deal, stating: "I have confidence in President Abbas…Now there are question marks, but I hope when he sees the political plan, he will realise the time and effort to create something special for the Palestinian people."