Israel Approves Measures After Inviting Palestinian President for Rare Meeting

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was invited by Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz for a rare meeting to discuss security coordination and preventing ongoing violence and acts of terrorism.

Following the meeting, Gantz’s office said he approved “confidence-building measures” including the transfer of tax payments to the Palestinian Authority, the authorization of hundreds of permits for Palestinian merchants and VIPs, and approving residency status for thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“We discussed the implementation of economic and civilian measures, and emphasized the importance of deepening security coordination and preventing terror and violence—for the well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians,” Gantz said in a statement on social media.

Abbas met with Gantz at his private residence in a Tel Aviv suburb on Tuesday. The meeting marked the first time the Palestinian leader held talks with a senior Israeli official on Israeli territory in over a decade.

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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas gives a joint statement with the U.S. secretary of state at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 25, 2021. (Alex Brandon/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s most enduring conflicts, but Tuesday’s negotiations made no mention of a peace process.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has shown no interest in reviving peace talks, which broke down more than a decade ago, but has said it wants to reduce tensions by improving living conditions in the West Bank. Recent months have seen a surge in violence by Palestinians attacking Israelis in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as Israeli settlers attacking Palestinians in the West Bank.

Isaac Herzog, the president of Israel, said he believes Tuesday’s dialogue was “positive,” adding that the meeting itself was important “at a time when we are security challenged in Judea and Samaria”—which is commonly referred to as the West Bank.

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog waves as he arrives at Number 10 Downing Street in central London on Nov. 23, 2021. (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

“We need to find paths for dialogue with the neighboring people in any way that can improve the lives of all of us and all the peoples, and certainly integrate into the impressively evolving regional fabric,” Herzog said on Wednesday.

In a separate incident, less than one day after Abbas met with Gantz, an Israeli civilian was wounded by gunfire in an attack on the Gaza border, the military said. The attack was the first instance of cross-border violence along the border of the Palestinian enclave in months and comes as Abbas drew condemnation from the enclave’s Hamas rulers for his visit to Israel.

The Israeli military said it responded with tank fire at multiple Hamas terrorist positions in the Gaza Strip. No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza, slammed Abbas for meeting Gantz, calling it “reprehensible and condemnable,” The Times of Israel reported.

“This is an attack on the uprising taking place in the West Bank,” said Hazim Qasim, a spokesperson for the designated terrorist group—apparently referring to a spate of recent attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

The Palestinians seek an independent state that includes all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas’ forces in 2007, a year after the terrorist group won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. Gaza has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since then.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.