Mahmoud Abbas secretly meets Israeli defence minister

Mahmoud Abbas. Editorial credit: A Katz

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas met secretly with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz at the latter’s residence in Tel Aviv earlier this week.

The visit was condemned by other Palestinian groups as a betrayal after news about it broke a few days ago.

According to a statement by the Israeli Defence Ministry, both discussed issues related to security and civil matters. Gantz told Abbas that he intends to “continue to promote actions to strengthen confidence in the economic and civilian fields, as agreed during their last meeting.”

Gantz said on Twitter: “We discussed the implementation of economic and civilian measures and emphasized the importance of deepening security coordination and preventing terror and violence – for the well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Benny Gantz. Editorial credit: Gil Cohen Magen

A range of “confidence-building measures” were announced after the meeting including the legalisation of 9,500 undocumented Palestinians and foreigners living in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel will also provide a loan of $32.2 million on tax revenue Israel collects on the PA’s behalf.

“If the Palestinian Authority is stronger, Hamas will be weaker. When the Palestinian Authority has more ability to enforce order, there will be more security, and our hand will be forced less,” Gantz said in late August.

Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister, Hussein al-Sheikh, said: “The meeting dealt with the importance of creating a political horizon that leads to a political solution, in accordance with international resolutions.”

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On the other hand, Hazem Qassem, Hamas Spokesperson in Gaza, said: “The visit of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the home of the so-called Zionist War Minister Gantz is a crime against our Palestinian people, and it encourages the parties that have normalised relations with the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian position, and reinforces the Zionist narrative. The authorities must retract this behaviour and apologise to our people for this visit.”

Popular Front Leader, Maher Mezher, said: “It would have been better for [the Palestinian State] to ease the way towards creating climates and convening the Central Council, not to go towards illusions and mirages to meet with the killer of children, the elderly, and women. This visit is rejected and condemned, and certainly, the Palestinian leadership is required to return to its senses towards rehabilitating the Palestinian national project, through the formation of a unified national leadership for the popular resistance.”

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