Israel’s defense minister, Palestinian president, discuss ‘trust-building’

Jerusalem (Reuters) – Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday and that the two agreed there was a need to make trust-building steps.

It was the first high-level contact made public by the new Israeli government, which was sworn in last month, unseating the country’s longest-serving leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The ruling coalition is made up of left-wing, centrist, right-wing and Arab parties with little in common on the diplomatic front. Officials have said they would focus on domestic reforms and largely avoid sweeping moves on hot-button international issues such as policy toward the Palestinians.

Gantz said he shared with Abbas good wishes for Eid al-Adha holiday on Tuesday, one of the two most important festivals of the Islamic calendar.

“The discussion was positive and the two cited the need to advance trust-building steps between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which will benefit the economy and security of the entire region,” Gantz’s office said in a statement.

Abbas’ office confirmed the call but did not give details.

Israel’s new president, whose role is largely ceremonial, said he spoke last week with Abbas, who congratulated him on the new role.