Abbas, Israeli DM hold first high-level talks in years


PTI, Aug 30, 2021, 10:52 AM IST

Jerusalem: Israel’s defence minister held talks late Sunday with the Palestinian president in the first high-level meeting between the two sides in years, officials said.

The meeting between Benny Gantz and Mahmoud Abbas signalled a possible shift of direction after the near-complete breakdown of communication between Abbas and Israeli leaders in recent years, under former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu pursued a hard-line policy toward the Palestinians, backed by former US President Donald Trump who had approved pro-Israeli policies such as moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem.

Abbas halted most contacts with the US and Israel during those years.

Netanyahu had repeatedly claimed Abbas was not a reliable partner for negotiating a peace deal, a portrayal dismissed by Netanyahu critics as a pretext for avoiding making concessions.

The Gantz-Abbas meeting came just after Israel’s current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, was received at the White House by President Joe Biden.

The Biden administration views Abbas as an essential player in any efforts to resume long-stalled talks on the terms of Palestinian statehood, even though Abbas is increasingly isolated and unpopular at home.

The Haaretz daily said the meeting took place in the town of Ramallah in the Israeli-controlled West Bank, where Abbas maintains his headquarters.

Gantz told Abbas that Israel would take measures to strengthen the Palestinian economy, according to a statement by Gantz’ office.

The economy of the Abbas-administered autonomous enclaves in the West Bank is dependent on Israel and has been stymied by movement restrictions Israel says are imposed for security reasons.

Hussein Sheikh, a top Abbas aide, confirmed the meeting in a statement on Twitter.

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