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‘Meretz meetings with PA officials don’t mean peace talks’

CM 28/07/2021

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This coalition does not have the political means to hold peace talks, so meetings and phone calls between Israeli and Palestinian officials should not be viewed as such, a source close to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned on Wednesday.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, both from Meretz, met with their counterparts in Ramallah earlier Wednesday.
President Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev spoke separately with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the past month. Prior to that, Abbas had not spoken with any Israeli ministers since 2017.
The source close to Bennett cautioned against seeing the meetings and phone calls as a move toward a peace process with the Palestinians in a coalition that is deeply divided on the issue of settlements and a two-state or other solution to the conflict.
“It is comfortable for things to stay quiet with the Palestinians,” the source said. “The moment we start getting into the Palestinian issue, the government just falls apart.”

Bennett and his Yamina Party are in favor of applying Israeli sovereignty to large swaths of Judea and Samaria, and oppose a two-state solution, as does Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and his party, New Hope. Labor and Meretz strongly advocate for a two-state solution and renewed peace talks. Other coalition parties favor a two-state solution but are more circumspect about its chances in the near future.
Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej has been pushing for Israeli ministers to meet with their Palestinian counterparts, and Zandberg and Horowitz were the first to do so.
Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid do not plan to speak to Abbas or other senior Palestinian officials in the near future, but did not object to the Meretz ministers doing so.
Both favor improving economic ties with the PA, and a source close to Bennett said that health and the environment are areas where increasing coordination makes sense.
Earlier Wednesday, the Defense Ministry announced that 16,000 more Palestinians will be able to receive permits to work in Israel, a 13% increase. The move is set to go to a cabinet vote on Sunday.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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