Abbas, Israeli DM maintain their first high-level talks in years | World information
JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s defense minister held talks with the Palestinian president late Sunday at the first high-level meeting between the two sides in years, officials said.
The meeting between Benny Gantz and Mahmoud Abbas signaled a possible change of direction after communications between Abbas and Israeli leaders had almost completely collapsed in recent years under former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu had tough policies against the Palestinians, backed by former US President Donald Trump, who had approved pro-Israel policies such as moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to embattled Jerusalem. Abbas stopped most of the contacts with the United States and Israel during these years.
Netanyahu had repeatedly claimed that Abbas was not a reliable partner in negotiating a peace deal, a portrayal that Netanyahu critics rejected as an excuse to avoid concessions.
The Gantz Abbas meeting took place shortly after President Joe Biden’s reception of current Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House. The Biden administration sees Abbas as a key player in efforts to resume long-stalled talks on the terms of Palestinian statehood, even though Abbas is increasingly isolated and unpopular at home.
The daily Haaretz said the meeting took place in the city of Ramallah in the Israel-occupied West Bank, where Abbas has his headquarters.
Gantz told Abbas that Israel will take steps to strengthen the Palestinian economy, according to a statement from Gantz’s office. The economy of the autonomous enclaves in the West Bank, administered by Abbas, is dependent on Israel and has been hampered by movement restrictions, which Israel said are imposed for security reasons.
Hussein Sheikh, a senior Abbas advisor, confirmed the meeting in a statement on Twitter.
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