Talks in Sharm, another shooting in Hawara  

  • Israel was represented on a professional level by the Director of the Shin Bet Security Service Ronen Bar and on a political level by the head of the National Security Council Tzachi Hanegbi.
  • The Palestinian delegation was led by PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh and head of Intelligence Majed Faraj.
  • Middle East adviser Brett McGurk represented the US alongside the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt.
  • According to Israeli media reports the Israeli delegation stressed the need to take uncompromising action against terrorism in order to prevent any escalation during and after Ramadan.
  • Israel and the PA reaffirmed their shared commitment to immediately refrain from taking unilateral action for a period of between three and six months. That includes an Israeli commitment to stop any discussion about building new housing units in the settlements for a four-month period, and to stop recognising unauthorised outposts for six months.
  • Efforts were also made to find a mechanism for Israel and the PA to cooperate and avoid any further deterioration in security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
  • The sides also agreed to establish a forum that would discuss Palestinian demands to receive tax funds that Israel has withheld after deducting the equivalent of terrorists’ salaries.
  • Meanwhile yesterday in Hawara a terrorist opened fire from point blank range at an Israeli car and injured a 30-year-old Israeli man alongside his wife.
  • The driver, David Stern, a resident of nearby Itamar settlement, who trains the security teams in the area, is also a US citizen and an ex-Marine. He managed to return fire and injure the terrorist, who dropped his gun and fled.
  • The injured terrorist was later found by IDF forces and taken for questioning.
  • On Saturday night a single rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. It fell in uninhabited territory close to the border and no one was injured. The IDF retaliated by shelling a Hamas military outpost.
  • Also over the weekend a senior member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was assassinated near his home in Damascus.  Ali Ramzi Al-Aswad was a senior engineer in the PIJ military wing. Israel was blamed for his death.

Context  This meeting in Sharm was the second regional summit focusing on Israeli – Palestinian arena following Aqaba conference at the end of February.

  • There remains a shared Israeli – PA agenda to deescalate the situation in the West Bank and on the Israeli side.
  • From the Palestinian perspective the purpose of the summit was to address their security concerns particularly related to limiting IDF incursions into Palestinian cities during Ramadan.
  • The Israelis are keen to fully re-establish security coordination with the PA Security Forces (PASF) and for the PASF to reassert themselves as they have recently begun to do in Nablus.
  • The US are also keen to see calm in the West Bank and thought to encourage Israel to take confidence building measures to improve economic conditions in the West Bank.
  • It is possible that the PIJ operative targeted in Damascus built the bomb that exploded in Megiddo junction last week.
  • Meanwhile over the weekend PIJ leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah met with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut.  This meeting suggests further evidence of Iranian support via Hezbollah for Palestinian terror groups.
  • The rocket fired on Saturday night was the first in eleven days.  Already this year thirty-six rockets have been fired from Gaza Strip towards Israel.  Most have occurred following Palestinian fatalities as a result of an Israeli counter-terror operation in the West Bank.
  • In parallel, the Jerusalem municipality announced steps to help East Jerusalemites celebrate Ramadan. Street decorations can already be seen in the eastern part of the city,  The municipality has also distributed food vouchers for the poor and deployed extra street cleaning. They are planning to hold several sporting and cultural activities to keep youngsters engaged over the holiday.
  • They remain on high alert, particularly in Hawara so as to prevent any vigilante responses from settlers.
  • Whilst the IDF remain on alert for potential attacks they will also be taking measures to facilitate freedom of worship for Palestinians to visit Al-Aqsa on the Temple Mount.
  • The agreements reached in Sharm are aimed at securing quiet in the months ahead.