Yair Lapid
Yair LapidFlash 90

Senior Palestinian Authority (PA) official Hussein Al-Sheikh, who met this week with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, told the Walla! news website on Tuesday that the meeting was very positive and "opened the door" to increased contacts between Israel and Palestinian Arabs.

"We want this door to remain open in order to move forward in the future towards the resumption of negotiations as well," Al-Sheikh said.

The PA official said that during the meeting he conveyed a message to Lapid from PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, saying that Abbas believes in a political solution with Israel that will be reached through negotiations and believes that there is great importance to a political horizon between Israel and the Palestinians.

"I made it clear to Minister Lapid that it is important to have a political horizon between us and the Israelis," Al-Sheikh told Walla!. "It is true that we are talking about security, the economy and civic issues, but it is important that there is a political umbrella for everything we do. Without it, the situation will be very difficult."

Al-Sheikh said that Lapid stressed during the meeting that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was aware of the meeting and did not oppose it. Lapid told Al-Sheikh he supported and backed Defense Minister Benny Gantz's actions to strengthen the Palestinian Authority. "We also discussed some other policy issues but I do not want to go into details," Al-Sheikh said.

"There was a positive meeting and we agreed that there would be follow-up meetings," the PA official said. "What is important to remember is that Israel's problem is not with Mauritania but with the Palestinians. If you do not talk to the Palestinians then who are you talking to? You negotiate with those with whom you do not agree."

Foreign Minister Lapid's office did not comment on the report.

Earlier this month, Lapid said that he would meet Abbas if there were justification for such a meeting.

"This government was formed with a clear statement that on the one hand there will be no diplomatic negotiations, and on the other hand it will not take any step that will interfere with a future possibility that there will be such negotiations and we are meeting both conditions," he explained.

At the same time, Lapid clarified he had no intention of meeting with Abbas in the foreseeable future. "It's not on the agenda. I do not rule out a meeting with him, but there is no reason for such a meeting at the moment. If there is a political justification I have no problem meeting with him, but there is no such justification."

"I maintain contact with Palestinian Authority officials on a working level. The State of Israel promotes excellent cooperation with them at the security and civilian level. This is the most I can achieve with the current coalition and the world accepts it. The Palestinians make calls for peace but then run to international bodies and try to harm us. There is no point in me deluding the world that there is something here that cannot exist in this government. We want to maintain the trust that is an asset at the political level," he added.