By Arab News
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has travelled to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the highest-level meeting since Israel’s new government took office in June.
The meeting is thought to have taken place at the urging of US President Joe Biden, who met Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House last week.
It also included the head of the Israeli military branch responsible for civil affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, Ghasan Alyan, senior Palestinian Authority’s official Hussein Al Sheikh and Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj.
Abbas and Gantz discussed Israel’s legal obligations and commitments, a senior Palestinian source told Arab News. “We are demanding the return of Palestinians’ security to the border crossing as it was before October 2000, the reopening of the airport in Gaza, allowing for freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank, family reunification, resolving the many financial obligations that Israel owes us, and the right to build in all of the occupied territories,” the source said.
“We are not obliged to make any concessions for these Israeli obligations, which are in signed agreements to which the US is a witness.”
Hanan Ashrawi, a former member of the PLO executive committee, told Arab News the meeting had been focused on economic cooperation and maintaining the Palestinian Authority’s security role. “This is not political, it’s manipulating the occupation to serve Israeli interests by stressing the functional role of the PA,” she said.
Najeeb Qadoumi, a member of the Palestine National and Central Council, told Arab News the timing of the meeting was aimed at giving a false sense of movement, but in reality nothing of substance was changing.
“They are still looking at the Palestinians from the security prism and not from the prism of national rights and the right to national self-determination,” he said.
Qadoumi said the Palestinians and the world should have no serious expectations from the Biden administration. “Sure, he is different from Trump, but he has given the Palestinians nothing on the settlements or Jerusalem, and is only paying lip service to the idea of a two-state solution.”
Dina Buttu, former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team, said: “The equation is always the same — the occupied must give the occupier a safe space to carry out war crimes. In exchange we get bread.”
Fadi Elsalaameen, a senior fellow at the American Security Project, said the meeting was part of a strategy to bolster Abbas as a ruler in the West Bank, in the hope that somehow with Israeli support Abbas can turn things around for himself and Israel. “Anyone with common sense knows this is a failed strategy,” he said.
“Abbas’s future as a leader is already behind him.”
After the meeting, Israel said it would lend the PA more than $150 million to ease the authority’s financial crisis, but analysts pointed out that Israel was effectively lending the Palestinians their own money. Last month the Israeli government withheld $180 million from 2020 tax revenues it collected on behalf of the PA.