State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday welcomed the meeting between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
“The US is very pleased Defense Minister Gantz hosted PA President Abbas at his home in Israel. We hope confidence-building measures discussed will accelerate momentum to further advance freedom, security, and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike in 2022,” tweeted Price.
Gantz on Tuesday evening hosted the PA chairman 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 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.”
Gantz on Wednesday approved a number of measures to benefit the PA, following his meeting with Abbas.
The benefits package, which the Defense Ministry described as a series of “confidence-building measures,” includes advances for tax payments collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf, amounting to 100 million shekels and status approvals on a humanitarian basis for 6,000 residents of Judea and Samaria, and an additional status approval for 3,500 Gaza residents.
Furthermore, the package includes approval for 600 entry permits for Palestinian businessmen, and 500 additional permits for business people to enter Israel with their vehicles, and dozens of VIP permits for senior PA officials.
During the meeting with Abbas, Gantz offered a number of economic benefits for the PA, including the possible reduction of fees for purchases between Israel and the PA, easing import conditions at the Israel-Jordanian border - which also serves the PA - and other measures which could increase revenue to the PA by hundreds of millions of shekels annually.
The Likud criticized the Gantz-Abbas 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.
The meeting was also criticized within the government, with ministers saying that Gantz's behaviors do not contribute to the coalition's stability.
Among them was Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Elkin (New Hope) said Wednesday morning that Gantz's meeting with Abbas was unnecessary.
"I do not see great importance in it," he said. "I would not invite to my home a person who pays salaries to those who murder Israelis."
"There is no diplomatic plan on the table - the Americans know this also," he added. "Continuous contact with the Palestinian Authority, that does exist."