What happened: Last night Defence Minister Benny Gantz met with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
- The meeting was held just ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha and in order to discuss security and civilian coordination ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit.
- According to the Ministry of defence, “the meeting was held in a positive atmosphere. The two men discussed the security and civilian challenges in the region. Defence Minister Gantz updated the PA Chairman on the complexity of the current time in Israel and the two agreed to continue the close security coordination and to refrain from steps that could undermine stability. Defence Minister Gantz wished the PA Chairman and all the Palestinian people a happy Eid al-Adha.”
- The Palestinian media reported that Abbas had stressed the importance of creating a horizon for the peace process, his commitment to signed agreements, and not letting the security situation deteriorate.
Context: This was the third meeting between Gantz and Abbas in the last year.
- Although there is currently no prospect of a return to political negotiations, particularly with an interim government, both sides have an interest in continuing security coordination and improving the Palestinian economy.
- There is a degree of optimism in Ramallah that Prime Minister Lapid, unlike his predecessor Naftali Bennett, would be open to meeting Abbas.
- Beyond rhetorical support for a negotiated two-state solution, the Biden visit is not expected to present any new initiatives for a return to talks.
- Palestinians may also be disappointed that despite Biden’s election promises, the US are not expected to be reopening their consulate in East Jerusalem at this point.
- However, on a practical level, the US are encouraging Israel to extend further confidence-building measures in the West Bank, including approving a new 4G cellular network for the Palestinians and increasing the number of Palestinian work permits inside Israel.
- This will be Biden’s first visit to Israel as President, visiting the country 10 times before since being elected to the Senate in 1972.
- According to the White House, President Biden’s visit to Israel next week will “reinforce the United States’ iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity”.
- The US administration sees this as a symbolic and sentimental visit and a chance to further highlight the strength of US-Israel relations.
Looking ahead: Despite the top level coordination, there is concern that Hamas or other terror organisations could attempt attacks to coincide with President Biden’s visits.
- President Biden will arrive in Israel next Wednesday afternoon. He will be met at the airport by both Prime Minister Lapid and President Herzog.
- He is then expected to visit the Palmachim IDF base, where he will see a presentation of Israel’s new anti-missile laser technology.
- On Thursday, Biden is expected to meet with Lapid and Leader of the Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu. He will also visit Yad Vashem, attend a reception in his honour at the President’s Residence and watch some of the Maccabiah Games.
- On Friday he will meet PA Chairman Abbas, before flying onto Jedda, Saudi Arabia.