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Palestinian president makes rare Israel visit for talks


The new Israeli government has held meetings with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas

Israel unveiled a package of “confidence-building measures” for the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, after Defence Minister Benny Gantz hosted talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on his first visit in years.

Abbas, leading a high-ranking delegation on his first visit to Israel for an official meeting since 2010, held talks with Gantz at his home in the central town of Rosh HaAyin, according to Israeli sources and media.

On Wednesday, Israel’s defence ministry announced “confidence-building measures” with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

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It also announced the regularisation of 6,000 more Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, which has been under Israeli control since the Six-Day War of 1967.

– ‘Courageous effort’ –

“The meeting dealt with the importance of creating a political horizon that leads to a political solution, in accordance with international resolutions,” Sheikh said.

But after those talks, hawkish Bennett, the former head of a settler lobby group who opposes Palestinian statehood, underlined that there was no peace process under way with the Palestinians, “and there won’t be one”.

Israel’s right-wing opposition Likud party condemned the latest meeting, saying that “concessions dangerous for Israel’s security are only a matter of time”.

“The Israeli-Palestinian government has put the Palestinians and Abbas back on the agenda… it is dangerous for Israel,” it added.

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, also condemned the visit.

An 11-day conflict in May between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip marked the worst hostilities in the area since 2014, and unrest has persisted despite an Egypt-brokered ceasefire.

“This behaviour by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority deepens the Palestinian political divide, complicates the Palestinian situation, encourages those in the region who want to normalise relations with the occupier, and weakens the Palestinians’ rejection of normalisation,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said.

Gantz’s meeting with Abbas follows a recent visit to the region by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, with the administration of President Joe Biden seeking to reboot relations with the Palestinians that were broken under Trump.

“For both Gantz and Abbas, they are trying to think of ways to fall into conflict management rather than conflict resolution,” she told AFP.

“It is very frustrating that after 17 years, Mahmud Abbas is still in the same pattern,” Buttu said. “He made himself so weak over the years that it has got to the point that he wants us to say: ‘Bravo, we are going to have a slightly better economy’.”

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