Defense Minister Benny Gantz surprised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a visit to his private property in the Israeli city of Rosh Haayin.
This is the first official meeting between the Palestinian leader and an Israeli official since 2010, with the exception of his participation in the funeral of former President Shimon Peres in 2016.
“Minister Gantz informed Chairman Abbas of his intention to continue advancing confidence-building measures in economic and civilian areas, as was determined in their previous meeting,” his office said in a statement.
“Minister Gantz emphasized the parties’ shared interest in deepening security coordination, maintaining regional stability, and preventing terror and violence.”
Maj. Gen. Rassan Aliyan, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, was also present, as was Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Civil Affairs, who is responsible for civilian and security coordination with Israel, and Majed Faraj, the Palestinian Chief of Intelligence.
Al-Sheikh stated that the two discussed the “need of establishing a political vision” for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has lasted decades. The most recent round of peace talks broke down in 2014.
The meeting lasted approximately two and a half hours, with portions held in public and others in private.
Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza, condemned Abbas’ meeting, calling it “reprehensible and condemnable.”
This is Gantz’s second meeting with Abbas, the first occurring in August at the latter’s official residence in Ramallah.
Concessions and reliefs
Following the meeting, Gantz approved a series of concessions and reliefs, including hundreds of entry permits for Palestinian businessmen and vehicles, more VIP licenses for dozens of PA officials, and the advancement of tax payments totaling NIS 100 million to the authority.
Additionally, Gantz approved the status of approximately 6,000 Palestinian residents of the West Bank and 3,500 Gazans in the Palestinian Authority’s Population Registry, which is under Israeli control – indicating that Israel will officially recognize the legal status of thousands of Palestinians, allowing them to move freely within the Palestinian territories.
The defense minister added that a number of additional economic measures are on the table, including lowering handling fees for fuel purchases in the territories, establishing an online VAT platform for Palestinians, and establishing a dedicated digital platform for Israeli employers to pay Palestinian workers on the spot.
Among other things, these initiatives are likely to add hundreds of millions of shekels to the authority’s annual budget.
Gantz and Abbas allegedly also discussed the importance of approving more frameworks that benefit Palestinians, including “further construction programs” in the West Bank.
The meeting between Gantz and Abbas took place against the backdrop of escalating unrest in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as a spate of attacks against Israeli civilians, as well as IDF troops and police personnel.
According to the Defense Minister’s Office, the meeting and concessions were made in order to “prevent a third intifada.”