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Defense Minister Gantz speaks to PA leader Abbas in first call from high-ranking Israeli minister in 4 years

The high-level conversation comes amid tensions and Muslim protests against the recent presence of 1,600 Jewish worshippers on the Temple Mount

Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Photos: Flash 90)

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday to wish him a happy Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday. This was reportedly the first time in four years that a senior Israeli minister spoke with the PA leader. The last official high-ranking conversation took place in 2017 when former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Abbas.

Following the conversation, Gantz’s office release a statement where it stressed the positivity between the two leaders.

“The two spoke with a positive atmosphere and discussed the need to advance confidence-building measures between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which will assist the security and economy of the entire region.”

Israel’s newly elected President Isaac Herzog also recently spoke with Abbas and offered his blessings for the Muslim holiday, which started on Monday. While in itself an encouraging development, the presidential office in Israel is largely ceremonial. Consequently, unlike the Israeli prime minister and other senior ministers, the Israeli president does not have any direct influence on Israeli policies.

The high-level conversation between Gantz and Abbas comes amid tensions and Muslim protests against the recent presence of 1,600 Jewish worshippers on the Temple Mount.

Unlike Israel’s growing diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, relations between Jerusalem and the PA in Ramallah remains tense with no apparent solution in sight any time soon.

In May, the PA’s diplomatic mission in the Netherlands urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe alleged Israeli “war crimes.” At the time when Hamas initiated a military aggression against the Jewish state, PA’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki accused Israel of “war crimes” and called for "accountability for the war crimes and crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Palestine, including in Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza."

In February 2020, former U.S. President Donald Trump released a peace plan, which was accepted by the former Netanyahu-led government but rejected by both Hamas and the PA. While the plan calls for a two-state solution, critics argued that it was biased in Israel’s favor.

The conflict between Israel and Palestinians has often been described as one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. Numerous two-state solutions to the conflict have been presented since 1937, which were accepted by the Jewish side, but rejected by the Arab leadership. In 1947, the United Nations voted in favor of establishing a Jewish state alongside an Arab state. Under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, the Jewish side accepted the partition while the Arab side rejected it and consequently launched a multi-front military assault on the nascent Jewish state with the goal of wiping it out off the map. In 2000, the late PLO leader Arafat ultimately rejected a comprehensive peace plan that was presented by the former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The conflict is further complicated by the fact that half of the Palestinian Arab population is ruled by the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, which openly calls for Israel’s destruction. While the PA officially seeks a peaceful two-state solution, it regularly demonizes and delegitimizes the existence of the Jewish state, frequently referring to Israeli cities such as Jaffa, Haifa and Nazareth as “Palestinian” and teaching Arab children that Israel has no right to exist.

In his recent meeting with the Jordanian King Abdallah, U.S. President Joe Biden once again expressed support for a peaceful two-state solution. It is therefore likely that both Jerusalem and Ramallah are eager to demonstrate that they are in favor of peace and do not want to come across as impediments to Washington’s potential new peace initiatives.

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The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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