Palestinian president meets with Israeli defense minister


Ramallah (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, officials said.

It was the highest-level meeting between Abbas and an Israeli minister to be made public since Israel’s new government was formed in June.

Gantz, who heads a centrist party, told Abbas that Israel would take measures to strengthen the Palestinian economy, according to a statement from his office.

“They also discussed shaping the security and economic situations in the West Bank and in Gaza,” the statement said. “They agreed to continue communicating further on the issues that were raised during the meeting.”

Hussein Al Sheikh, a member of Abbas’ Fatah Central Committee, said the discussion included “all aspects” of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Peace talks between the two sides collapsed in 2014, though Israel over the past year has reached normalization agreements with a number of Arab countries, under U.S. sponsorship.

Israel’s new government includes a patchwork of parties spanning the far left to far right and includes for the first time a small Islamist faction.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads an ultranationalist party, opposes Palestinian statehood. But given the makeup of his coalition, any sensitive policy decisions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be difficult.

The meeting in Ramallah came just a couple of days after Bennett met with U.S. President Joe Biden in the White House, during which Biden reiterated support for a two-state solution.

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