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Gantz offers Abbas series of goodwill gestures in rare Ramallah meeting

CM 30/08/2021

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Israel will make a series of goodwill gestures to the Palestinian Authority following a meeting between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday night, Gantz announced on Monday.
Among the economic gestures Gantz offered Abbas at the late-night meeting was a half-a-billion shekel loan. They two men also spoke about ways to regulate the status of thousands of West Bank Palestinians who lack documentation; as well as ways to streamline digital VAT accounting for all Palestinian businesses that make purchases from Israel.
Gantz met with Abbas just hours after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett returned from Washington DC. The face-to-face meeting was the first in a decade between Abbas and such a high-level Israeli official.

“Neither we nor the Palestinians are going anywhere tomorrow morning” and steps must be taken to build trust between Israelis and Palestinians, Gantz said Monday afternoon in a briefing with reporters.
Gantz’s meeting came at a time when the PA faces deep financial crisis and political unrest, with Abbas losing ground to Hamas. There is also a spoke in West Bank violence and Palestinians in Gaza have renewed their violent border riots.
“I came to the meeting to build trust and safeguard the interests of the State of Israel, and to strengthen our important ties with the Palestinian Authority,” he said, explaining that the stronger that the PA is, the weaker Hamas will be in the West Bank and that Israel will have to act less there.
 “We also discussed shaping the security and economic situations in the West Bank and in Gaza,” Gantz said. “We agreed to continue communicating further on the issues that were raised during the meeting.”
Bennett has insisted that he has no plans to hold peace negotiations with the Palestinians and the two men did not exchange customary words when Bennett took office. Bennett does not support a two-state solution, but has said he will not try to annex parts of Judea and Samaria as the head of a government that spans diverse parts of the Israeli political spectrum.
A source close to Bennett clarified that the prime minister gave his consent to the meeting in advance.
“This is a meeting that dealt with joint, everyday issues between the security establishment and the Palestinian Authority,” the source said. “There is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians, nor will there be.”
Bennett does support moves to improve Palestinians’ quality of life and to stabilize the Palestinian Authority, which he views as helpful to Israel’s security. The topic was among those he discussed with US President Joe Biden and top administration officials last week.
A senior diplomatic source said economic issues were a major focus of the Gantz-Abbas meeting.
Gantz believes that an in-person, high-level meeting would be the way to move proposals forward, the source said, but the source was skeptical that Abbas was the key to concrete progress or that much would come of the meeting.
A portion of Sunday night’s Gantz-Abbas meeting in Ramallah was also attended by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Ghasan Alyan as well as Palestinian Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, and Head of the Palestinian Intelligence Service, Majid Faraj. Gantz and Abbas also met alone.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi at a operational briefing in the IDFs Southern Command, June 8, 2021. (credit: ARIEL HERMONI/DEFENSE MINISTRY)Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi at a operational briefing in the IDFs Southern Command, June 8, 2021. (credit: ARIEL HERMONI/DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Gantz telephoned Abbas in July to convey his good wishes for the Eid-al-Adha holiday, and President Isaac Herzog spoke with Abbas in recent months, as well.
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority broke down in 2014 and have not been renewed. Those rounds of talks brokered by former US secretary of state John Kerry did not include an Abbas meeting. The Palestinian leader met with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu only twice, once in Washington in 2010 and once on the sidelines of the General Assembly in 2009. They did occasionally speak by phone, with the last such conversation taking place in 2017.
The Palestinian leader also came to Jerusalem for the funeral of former president Shimon Peres and informally spoken with both former president Reuven Rivlin and Netanyahu.
Peres himself also met Abbas at the Vatican in 2014, for a peace vigil with Pope Francis. 
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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