Rare visit to Israel by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Israel, where he met Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The Israeli authorities on Wednesday announced a series of “confidence-building measures” with the Palestinian Authority following the first official visit to Israel in years by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to meet with Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

On Tuesday evening, a delegation of senior Palestinian officials led by President Mahmoud Abbas, 86, discussed security and economic issues at Mr. Gantz’s residence, located in Rosh Haayin, central Israel. Israeli sources told AFP.

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, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, in the occupied West Bank. But this is the first time since 2010 that Abbas has visited Israel for an official meeting with a member of the Israeli government.

“We discussed the implementation of economic and civil measures, and the importance of strengthening our security coordination,” Mr. Gantz wrote on Twitter overnight, without however specifying the location of this meeting.

On Wednesday morning, his ministry said it had approved “confidence-building measures” such as an advance payment to the Palestinian Authority of 100 million shekels (28.5 million euros) in taxes collected on its behalf by Israel, granting 600 additional permits allowing Palestinian businessmen to cross on the Israeli side; and the regularization of 6,000 additional Palestinians living in an area of ​​the West Bank under Israeli control.

For the first time since 2009, Israel had already announced, in October, the regularization of the status of 4,000 Palestinians living in “Area C”, a large area of ​​the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control and where Israeli settlements are concentrated.

This measure, which prevents the eviction of these Palestinian families and is presented by Israel as being “humanitarian”, had been criticized by Palestinian organizations believing that “Area C” belongs by right to the Palestinians and that they have no therefore no need to ask the Hebrew state to live there.

Hamas condemns the meeting

On the Palestinian side, the Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein al-Sheikh, welcomed the Abbas / Gantz meeting devoted to economic issues, “tensions” linked to the activities of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and “the importance of creating a political horizon “to achieve a” solution “to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But the Islamist movement Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip, a territory separated from the West Bank and under Israeli blockade, condemned the meeting, believing it to deviate from “the national spirit of the Palestinian people” and therefore from reconciliation. of Palestinian leadership divided between the West Bank and Gaza.

“This behavior of the leadership of the Palestinian Authority worsens the Palestinian political division, complicates the Palestinian situation, encourages some in the region who want to normalize with the occupier and weakens the Palestinian position which rejects normalization” with Israel, said the Minister. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem in a statement.

In Israel, the Likud party (right) of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister from 2009 to last June and virulent critic of the Palestinian president, also condemned the meeting which he said led to “concessions dangerous for security of Israel “.

The Abbas-Gantz meeting comes less than a week after the visit to Israel and the West Bank by US national security adviser Jake Sullivan who had discussed with Mahmoud Abbas “the resumption of a significant level of economic and development aid “from the United States.

The current Israeli government says it wants to discuss ways to “improve” the standard of living of Palestinians, without however seeking to embark on new peace negotiations, which have stalled since 2014.

In Washington, the administration of President Joe Biden, whose country is Israel’s first ally, has pledged to relaunch its relations with the Palestinians, which had broken off under Donald Trump, without however embarking on new Israeli-Palestinian talks. .

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