Mon 30 August 2021:
On Sunday in the West Bank, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas for the first formal Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett entered office in June.
Officials claimed Gantz traveled to the West Bank city of Ramallah for security and economic talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is 85 years old.
They came hours after Israeli premier Bennett returned from Washington where he met with US President Joe Biden at the White House.
“Defence Minister Benny Gantz met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmud Abbas (Sunday) evening to discuss security policy, civilian and economic issues,” Israel’s defence ministry said in a statement.
Gantz, head of a centrist party in Israel’s government coalition, told Abbas “that Israel seeks to take measures that will strengthen the PA’s economy. They also discussed shaping the security and economic situations in the West Bank and in Gaza,” it added.
“They agreed to continue communicating further.”
Ghasan Alyan, the head of the Israeli military unit in charge of civil affairs in the Palestinian territories, attended the meeting, as did Hussein Al Sheikh, a top PA official, and Majid Faraj, the Palestinian intelligence chief.
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On Twitter, Al Sheikh confirmed the meeting. After the broader meetings, Gantz’s office stated the defense minister and Abbas had “a one-on-one meeting.”
In recent years, relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, have worsened significantly.
Bennett is a hardline nationalist who opposes Palestinian independence and was previously the head of a powerful settlement lobbying group.
His office has made clear that Israel’s ideologically disparate coalition, which includes left-wingers and hawks like the premier, has no plans to initiate a new round of peace talks.
Following the death in Palestinian prison of a renowned activist, Abbas’s PA has come under increasing international scrutiny for an alleged crackdown on key rights.
Last week, the United Nations and the European Union raised concern over a wave of arrests targeting Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.
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