Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hosted Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Palestinian presidency office in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank on Sunday evening – the highest-level meeting between Israel and the PA in 10 years.
A member of the Fatah Central Committee and head of the Palestinian Civil Affairs Authority, Hussein al-Sheikh, said that “Abbas met Gantz this evening (Sunday) in Ramallah, where they discussed Palestinian-Israeli relations in all their aspects.”
He did not elaborate.
A statement issued by the Israeli Defense Ministry stated that the two discussed a range of security, political, civil and economic issues, and the two agreed “to continue in communication on the various issues raised.” They also talked about how to reshape “the security, civil and economic reality in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
“Gantz told Abbas that Israel is ready for a series of procedures that would strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s economy,” according to the statement.
“I told Abu Mazen (Abbas’ nom de guerre) that we aren’t going anywhere and that the Palestinians aren’t going anywhere. I went to the meeting in order to build confidence and preserve the interests of the State of Israel and the important ties we have with the Palestinian Authority, which I believe we need to strengthen,” Gantz said. “As the Palestinian Authority gets stronger, Hamas gets weaker, and so long as it has greater governance, we will have more security and we will have to act less.”
Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Ghassan Alyan took part in the meeting along with Al-sheikh and the head of the Palestinian intelligence agency, Gen. Majid Faraj.
The meeting comes after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett returned from his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and other American officials in Washington last week.
A statement issued by the White House on Friday said that during their meeting, Biden “stressed the importance of taking steps to improve the lives of Palestinians and support greater economic opportunities for them, and the importance of refraining from actions that may exacerbate tensions, contribute to a sense of injustice and undermine constructive trust efforts.”
The meeting with Gantz is considered the first official meeting of a high-ranking Israeli government official with Abbas since 2010.
After the recent war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip in May, Gantz said he believed that Hamas should be weakened and that political relations with the Palestinian Authority strengthened. He called for an international and regional mechanism through the PA and the international organizations to oversee the reconstruction of Gaza.
Last July, Gantz announced that he had spoken by phone with Abbas, and Gantz’s office issued a statement at the time stated that the two sides confirmed on the need to strengthen “confidence-building procedures” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, “which would enhance security and the economy in the whole region.”
On July 23, Gantz announced that he had discussed economic and social initiatives to strengthen the Palestinian Authority with the acting U.S. ambassador to Israel, Michael Ratney.
“We discussed the importance of economic and social initiatives to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, as well as confidence-building procedures for the security of the region,” Gantz said on Twitter after his meeting with the American official.
Palestinians denounced the meeting between Gantz and Abbas as being only in Israeli interest but would do little to make improvements on the ground. Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorist movements also denounced this meeting, calling it a failed adherence to the path of a settlement with Israel that will do little to benefit the Palestinian people.
In a statement, Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanou accused the PA leader of betrayal.
“President Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and what they have sacrificed. It is a betrayal of the blood of the martyrs,” said al-Qanou.
Similar sentiments were expressed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesman Tareq Silmi.
“The meeting between Abbas and Gantz is a stab [in the back] to our people. The blood of the children killed by the occupation army on the orders of Gantz is still on the ground and has not dried up yet,” Silmi said.