Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz discussed “security and economy” Tuesday evening during a meeting held in Israel, a first in years.
“I met this evening (Tuesday) the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. We discussed the implementation of economic and civil measures, and the importance of strengthening our security coordination (…) ”, wrote on Twitter Benny Gantz, shortly after the announcement by his ministry of a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas.
On the Palestinian side, the Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh, a close friend of Mahmoud Abbas, indicated on Twitter that this meeting had focused on “security, economic and humanitarian” issues, “on the tense conditions on the ground due to practices of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and on the “importance of creating a political horizon” in order to achieve a “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The last round of peace negotiations collapsed in 2014 and has not been relaunched since.
Following the coming to power in June of the coalition government led by Naftali Bennett, Israeli ministers, including Benny Gantz, visited Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. But this is the first time that the head of the Palestinian Authority has officially visited Israel since 2010, except for his visit in 2016 to the funeral of Shimon Peres.
“I hope that peace will come out of this house”
The interview took place at Gantz’s home in the town of Rosh HaAyin, an hour’s drive from Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority. According to Israeli public broadcaster Kan, during the interview, Benny Gantz’s son walked into the room, leading his father to say he was a soldier. “I hope that peace will come out of this house”, would have reacted Abbas.
According to the Defense Ministry, the meeting, which was also attended by the coordinator of Israeli operations in the territories, and the head of Palestinian intelligence, lasted about two and a half hours, part of it face-to-face. Gantz and Abbas have reportedly agreed to do what is necessary to prevent further escalation of tensions in the West Bank.
The Likud party (right) of opposition leader Benyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister from 2009 to last June and virulent critic of the Palestinian president, condemned in a statement this meeting which led according to him to “dangerous concessions for the security of ‘Israel’. The government of Naftali Bennett, moreover supported by an Arab party, a first in the history of Israel, “put the Palestinians and Abbas back on the agenda and that is dangerous for Israel”, adds the party of law.
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Hamas also condemned this “reprehensible and condemnable” meeting, “stab in the back of the Intifada”. “This is an attack on the uprising taking place in the West Bank,” terrorist group spokesman Hazim Qasim said in reference to a series of recent attacks.
The Abbas-Gantz meeting comes less than a week after the visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan who had discussed with Mahmoud Abbas “the resumption of a significant level of economic aid and development ”from the United States. Benny Gantz is one of the political figures who want to strengthen the Palestinian Authority to weaken Hamas. If Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former leader of the pro-settlement movement in the West Bank, opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, his coalition government says it wants to discuss ways to “improve” the standard of living of Palestinians . The current Israeli government, to this end, has loaned the Palestinian Authority 500 million Shekels (142 million euros) to ease its crippling debt crisis, provided permits to undocumented Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza , and increased the number of permits allowing Palestinians to work in Israel in a bid to pump the West Bank economy. According to Kan News, Gantz announced on Wednesday morning that he had accepted, as a “confidence-building measure”, that a tax payment be advanced to the Palestinians, which amounts to lending them an additional 100 million shekels.
Bennett would not have appreciated Ganz opening his house to the leader of the Palestinian Authority. Housing and Construction Minister Zeev Elkin in a morning interview bid: “I would not invite anyone to my home who pays salaries to murderers of Israelis,” he condemned.