Officials from the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are negotiating in Egypt despite criticism and demands for a boycott from Palestinian political parties. The one-day conference began on Sunday in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where officials from Jordan, the US, and Egypt are also present.
The meetings are being held before Ramadan, which will start on Thursday, in an effort to keep things “quiet” diplomatically during the Muslim holy month, when tensions between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories frequently rise.
The situation has been heated on the ground for more than a year, with frequent raids and almost daily killings of Palestinians by the Israeli army. These killings have only increased under the new Israeli government’s strong right-wing policies, which took office at the end of the previous year.
The meetings are intended “to facilitate communication between the Palestinian and Israeli sides to work to avoid unilateral actions and escalation, as well as to break the current cycle of violence and establish calm,” according to a statement from Egypt’s foreign ministry.
According to the statement, this could “help the formation of a climate favourable for the restart of the peace process”.
On Saturday, top PA official Hussein al-Sheikh said the Palestinian delegation will be participating in order to “defend the rights of our Palestinian people to freedom and independence”, and “[request] an end to this continuous Israeli aggression against us and to stop all measures and policies that violate our blood, land, property and sanctities”.
Tzachi Hanegbi, the national security adviser, intelligence head Ronen Bar, and military general Ghassan Alian are reportedly leading the Israeli team.
With the exception of Fatah, which governs the PA, all significant Palestinian political parties condemned the talks and advocated for a boycott. The militant organization Hamas declared that it “rejects the conference in Sharm al-Sheikh,” which is under siege in the Gaza Strip.
Spokesperson Mousa Abu Marzouq said in a statement published on Friday that “European and American authorities issue declarations denouncing the atrocities of the [Israeli] occupation, but do not take any measures to pressure the Israeli entity to halt its crimes”.
In a joint statement, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) political parties declared the PA’s insistence on joining the Sharm al-Sheikh conference “constitutes a coup against popular desire”.
Israel is “using these summits and security gatherings as an opportunity to launch greater assault on our people,” they claimed.
The negotiations on Sunday come after a historic summit between PA and Israeli officials, mediated by the US, that took place in Jordan last month. That assembly had a lot of hostility as well and was unsuccessful in stopping the Israeli occupation’s increasingly harsh actions against Palestinians.
Israel was allegedly persuaded to stop declaring new illegal settlements for several months, according to the Aqaba Summit’s concluding statement, but Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, denied making any such commitments within hours after the summit’s conclusion.
Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi declared at the time that “there is no change in Israeli policy, contrary to reports and tweets about the conference in Jordan.
Israel has erected hundreds of illegal settlements and outposts throughout the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, housing about 700,000 Israeli settlers, preventing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on those territories, which Israel has militarily occupied since 1967. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 89 Palestinians have been slain by Israeli soldiers and settlers this year, including 18 children and one woman.