Israeli PM's office says 'no peace talks' with Palestinians, downplays Gantz-Abbas meeting

Israeli PM's office says 'no peace talks' with Palestinians, downplays Gantz-Abbas meeting
2 min read
30 August, 2021
A source close to Bennett's office said 'there is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians, nor will there be one'.
Bennett is a hardline nationalist who opposes Palestinian statehood and previously led a powerful settler lobbying council [Getty]

An Israeli official close to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett downplayed on Monday the first official Israeli-Palestinian talks since the premier took office in June, saying there won't be any peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

According to Israeli media reports, the official stressed "there is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians, nor will there be one".

"This is a meeting that deals with security issues," the official said, adding that it was approved in advance by the prime minister.

“[It] covered routine issues between the defense establishment and the Palestinian Authority."

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday travelled to the West Bank city of Ramallah for a rare meeting with the 85-year-old Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

It marked the first high-level face-to-face meeting between both sides in over a decade.

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Israeli lawmaker Mossi Raz condemned Monday's statement by the official from Bennett's office, calling for peace talks with the Palestinians.

"[This is an] outrageous message. Why not have a diplomatic process? A diplomatic process is in Israel’s interest," Meretz MK Mossi Raz tweeted in response to the unnamed official's statement.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who met his Palestinian counterpart a few weeks ago, praised the Gantz-Abbas meeting.

"After a long and damaging disconnect of years with our closest neighbors, it is time to resume dialogue and cooperation with the PA," he tweeted.

During Sunday's meeting, Gantz, head of a centrist party in Israel's government coalition, told Abbas "that Israel seeks to take measures that will strengthen the PA's economy. They also discussed shaping the security and economic situations in the West Bank and in Gaza", a statement said. 

"They agreed to continue communicating further."

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According to Gantz's office, the politicians held two rounds of discussions. The first was attended by Israel's military liaison to the Palestinians, Ghassan Alian, Palestinian Authority intelligence chief Majid Faraj and Al-Sheikh. In the second, Gantz and Abbas spoke privately.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri slammed the meeting, calling it "dangerous and disrespectful".

Zuhri accused the Palestinian Authority of "caring more about security cooperation with Israel than the national interests of Palestine".

Bennett is a hardline nationalist who opposes Palestinian statehood and previously led a powerful settler lobbying council.