Israel FM Lapid defends turning down Palestinian President Abbas' meeting requests

Israel FM Lapid defends turning down Palestinian President Abbas' meeting requests
2 min read
Israel's FM Yair Lapid contradicted claims he discussed political issues with Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh discussed, saying they talked about matters including security.
Yair Lapid said there is no principled objection to meeting with Mahmoud Abbas [Amir Levy/Getty-archive]

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid defended his decision to decline repeated requests for meetings from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

He told Israel's Army Radio he will meet Abbas only when there is political justification for it, saying this is currently "non-existent", The New Arab's Arabic-language sister service, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, reported.

Lapid insisted Israel's current coalition government is not pursuing political negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and promised not to go behind his coalition partners' backs by personally initiating such talks.

But there is no principled objection to meeting with Abbas, according to Lapid, who is also Israel's alternate prime minister and will take over from Naftali Bennett as premier in August next year.

He highlighted Defence Minister Benny Gantz's hosting of Abbas in his home in December. There they discussed the PA's ties with Israel.

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Lapid himself hosted Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh at his Tel Aviv house on Sunday but told Army Radio this concerned security, the West Bank economy, and the relationship between the two sides.

This contradicts Palestinian Authority and certain Israeli claims that Lapid and Al-Sheikh discussed political issues.

Lapid was also asked about whether Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, could normalise ties with Israel.

He said: "Israel is interested in expanding the [normalisation] agreements. Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are important countries.

"This takes time, and there are small countries that will join the Abraham Accords in the next year or two.

"There are major countries whose inclusion will take time."