Israel and Palestine have had official talks at the highest level for years on Sunday (29), when Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The conversation took place in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian executive. The two parties to the conflict have not had such senior officials for years.
According to Israeli government sources consulted by Reuters and AFP news agencies, however, there has been no discussion of the peace process, which has been paralyzed for more than seven years.
Gantz’s office said he and Abbas had “a face-to-face meeting” after the larger conversations and “agreed to keep the communication going.”
The meeting took place hours after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett returned from the US capital of Washington, where he met US President Joe Biden.
The Israeli military commander responsible for Civil Affairs in the Palestinian Territories, Ghasan Alyan, also attended the meeting; Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior official in the Palestinian Authority; and the head of Palestinian intelligence, Majid Faraj.
Al-Sheikh confirmed the meeting on social media, but the PA declined to comment on the content of the conversations.
At the end of the meeting, the Israeli government announced on Monday (30) the loan of 155 million US dollars to the Palestinian Authority, to be paid with the collection of future taxes collected by Israel.
The announcement comes at a delicate time, as last month Israel blocked $ 180 million from the Palestinian government in taxes collected in 2020. Israelis accuse PA of paying protesters arrested or killed in attacks on Israel .
On Monday, Israel’s defense ministry said in a statement that the country was trying to “take measures to strengthen the economy of the Palestinian Authority.” According to the ministry, the two politicians also discussed the economic and security situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who took office in June at the head of an eclectic coalition, is a nationalist and longtime opponent of the creation of a Palestinian state. He had been the head of a council that campaigns for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
But Bennett and his government have sought to re-establish ties with the Palestinian Authority, which were severed under the government of Benjamin Netanyahu (2009-2021), also right-wing and pro-colonial. With the unconditional support of then-President Donald Trump, Netanyahu made no substantial effort to resolve the conflict.
Joe Biden’s government, for its part, supports a two-state solution, Israeli and Palestinian, and has resumed financial aid to the Palestinian Authority.
The current prime minister’s office has made it clear that the coalition that brought him to power, which ranges from left to far right, has no plans to engage in peace talks with the Palestinians.
Senior Israeli government officials have, however, expressed interest in strengthening the Palestinian Authority, amid fears of further clashes with the Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
Hamas denounced Monday’s meeting between Gantz and Abbas, saying it “worsens Palestinian divisions”. Sworn enemies Israel and Hamas waged an 11-day war in May this year. Once the truce was reached, exchanges of fire and sporadic acts of violence continued.
On Sunday (29), Israel carried out airstrikes against the Gaza Strip, after incendiary balloons were launched over its territory from the Palestinian enclave.
Last week, clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police near the Gaza-Israel border left two Palestinians dead and an Israeli sniper, as well as dozens injured on the protesters’ side.