‘Don’t call it peace talks’: Israeli, Palestinian leaders meet, discuss economic policies

A Bennett staffer said the meeting was strictly security-based, and that observers should not interpret the meeting as a sign of warming ties.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Palestinian Authority (PA) chair Mahmoud Abbas on Monday evening, marking the highest level discussion between PA and Israeli politicians in over a decade.

Gantz wrote on Twitter that the two men had discussed “security-policy, civilian and economic issues.”

“I told chairman Abbas that Israel seeks to take measures that will strengthen the PA’s economy,” Gantz added.

“We also discussed shaping the security and economic situations in the West Bank and in Gaza. We agreed to continue communicating further on the issues that were raised during the meeting.”

According to Hebrew language media, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gave the green light for the meeting to take place in Ramallah.

But sources in Bennett’s administration were quick to clarify that the meeting was strictly security-based, and that observers should not interpret the meeting as a sign of warming ties.

“This is a meeting that deals with current issues of the security system with the Palestinian Authority,” a source told Ma’ariv.

“There is no political process with the Palestinians and there never will there be.”

Earlier in August, Channel 12 reported that Bennett had refused to grant permission for the meeting, fearing that it would be perceived as a prelude to peace talks.

On the heels of the death of political activist Nizar Banat in PA custody, mass protests and civil unrest have shaken the Palestinian Authority’s grip on the area.

Hady Amr, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, warned Israel in a recent meeting that the PA is near collapse, urging the Jewish State to strengthen the ailing government or risk facing a situation in which Hamas and other terror groups come to power.

An Israeli government official told Axios in July that Amr had raised the alarm regarding the PA losing legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian public, and said the institution’s loss of control could pose serious security issues for Israel.

“I have never seen the Palestinian Authority in a worse situation,” Amr reportedly told the Israeli official.

Speaking about the economic and political crisis the PA is currently facing, he likened the situation to a “a dry forest waiting to catch on fire.”