Defense Minister Benny Gantz met on Tuesday evening with Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, whom he hosted at his home in Rosh HaAyin.
The meeting was also attended on the Israeli side by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Ghasan Alyan. On the Palestinian Arab side, it was attended by PA “civil affairs minister” Hussein al-Sheikh and the head of the Palestinian security services, Majed Faraj.
The meeting was fully coordinated with the Prime Minister's Office and with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett himself and dealt with security and economic matters, according to officials in Gantz’s office. It lasted about two and a half hours and was divided into two parts - one took place in an extensive forum and the other in private between the Minister of Defense and Abbas.
This is the first time that Abbas has publicly visited Israel since the funeral of former President Shimon Peres in 2016.
The Defense Minister’s office said the two discussed “a number of security and civilian topics. 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.”
“Minister Gantz emphasized the parties’ shared interest in deepening security coordination, maintaining regional stability and preventing terror and violence.”
The Likud responded to the meeting and said, "Bennett's Israeli-Palestinian government puts Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians back on the agenda. Concessions that are dangerous to Israel's security are only a matter of time. The Bennett-Sa'ar-Lapid government is dangerous to Israel."
The Religious Zionist Party said, "For 10 years, the right has succeeded in making Abbas irrelevant and a persona non grata in the world and removing the discourse of dividing the country and establishing a state of terror in the heart of the Land of Israel from the agenda."
"Bennett and his left-wing government bring Oslo back to the table and Abbas to the center of the stage. Bennett, bad for the Jews," the party added.
Gantz previously met with Abbas in August to discuss measures to strengthen the PA's economy. Following the meeting, Israel agreed to loan the PA 500 million shekels.
A senior official in the government criticized Gantz following his first meeting with Abbas, saying he “only cares about his own political interests” and “is behaving like a government within a government.”
The Defense Minister, however, insisted that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was aware of his meeting with Abbas and approved it.