High-level government talks regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict haven’t happened liked this since 2010. A low-level round of talks instigated by former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took place in 2014, but never included a meeting with Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas.
In a surprising turn of events, Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, traveled to Ramallah on Sunday to meet with Abbas. Prior to the meeting, Gantz was quoted saying “Israel will make a series of goodwill gestures to the Palestinian Authority . . .”
Strengthening ties amidst the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
What was the “series of goodwill gestures” that Defense Minister Gantz put on the table during his meeting with President Abbas?
In his remarks from the meeting, Gantz proudly declared:
I told Abu Mazen [nom de guerre for Mahmoud Abbas] that we aren’t going anywhere and that the Palestinians aren’t going anywhere. I went to the meeting in order to build confidence and preserve the interests of the State of Israel and the important ties we have with the Palestinian Authority, which I believe we need to strengthen.Benny Gantz, remarks made on August 30, 2021
Israel to resume paying salaries to convicted terrorists and their families
Gantz’s first goodwill gesture was to offer Abbas a 500 million shekel loan (equivalent to $155,998,000 USD) from Israel to the Palestinian Authority. According to Gantz, the loan will be taken from tax funds that Israel has withheld from the PA in protest of their pay-for-slay policy, by which Palestinian terrorists and their family members receive monthly payments.
In other words, Gantz’s offer to “loan” money to the PA is really no loan at all, but instead a method of circumventing the law passed in Israeli courts in 2018 that penalizes the PA the same amount of money that they give each year to pay convicted terrorists who have injured or slaughtered Israeli civilians.
Now, instead of this money continuing to be withheld from the PA, Gantz is offering it back in the form of a “loan” that will never need to be repaid.
Other goodwill gestures
The two leaders spoke about how to solve the issue of thousands of Palestinians who don’t have proper documentation to work in Israel.
Gantz promised Abbas that Israeli will recognize the status of Palestinian adults who are currently living in Judea and Samaria without proper documentation. Why don’t they have any ID or proper documentation? The question remains unanswered by any officials from either Israel’s government or the Palestinian Authority.
Gantz also pledged permission for an additional 16,000 Palestinians to receive permits allowing them to work in Israel.
Israel’s Civil Administration is also set to approve more Palestinian building permits in the secured Jewish areas (Area C) of Judea and Samaria.
What are other government officials saying?
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Prime Minister gave his consent to the meeting between Gantz and Abbas in advance. This is a new stance for Bennett, who just a few years ago urged Netanyahu not to meet with “that terrorist” Abbas.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel both made public statements questioning the necessity of Gantz’s meeting with Abbas.
Here are the current statements from different officials in Israel’s government regarding the 2021 Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Sunday’s meeting between Gantz and Abbas.
In his place, I wouldn’t have held the meeting because [Abbas] pays salaries to the families of terrorists . . . a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria will not be established under any circumstances.Gideon Sa’ar, Israel’s Minister of Justice
Gantz is taking care of his own political interests. If the government falls it will be because of his conduct . . . if the meeting was for security purposes, why did he issue a press release about it?”Senior Aide to Naftali Bennett, Prime Minister of Israel
This is a meeting that dealt with joint, everyday issues between the security establishment and the Palestinian Authority, there is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians, nor will there be.Unnamed source close to Naftali Bennett
Under no circumstances would I have met with him. He is a Holocaust denier and someone who transfers money to terrorists. A unity government should not be taking steps that favor the left, and not steps that favor the right.Yoaz Hendel, Israel’s Minister of Communications
Gantz could be purposefully trying to bring down the government.Unname source close to Naftali Bennett
Benny Gantz defends the meeting
The Minister of Defense was quick to defend his own actions on Twitter by saying:
This evening I met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to discuss security-policy, civilian and economic issues. I told Chairman Abbas that Israel seeks to take measures that will strengthen the PA’s economy.
We also discussed shaping the security and economic situations in the West Bank and in Gaza. We agreed to continue communicating further on the issues that were raised during the meeting.– Benny Gantz Twitter feed
I emphasized the need to widen the actions of the international community in order to maintain regional stability. We also discussed the need to strengthen the PA and additional moderate actors in the region.
I called on the int’l community to face challenges together: Iran’s nuclear ambitions & Hezbollah’s terrorist actions. I also asked to unite in the face of opportunities: expanding the Abraham Accords, strengthening the PA, and cooperating in combatting the COVID pandemic.– Benny Gantz Twitter feed
Benny Gantz’s approach is clear. He wants to make goodwill gestures in order to strengthen the Palestinian Authority because they are a “moderate actor in the region”. In other words, Israel knows that Hamas, headquartered in Gaza, is the most radical terrorist organization in the region. By strengthening the more “moderate” terrorist organization, the PA, Gantz knows it will reduce the likelihood of Hamas gaining power and taking control of Judea and Samaria.
Hamas’ reaction to Sunday’s meeting
Hamas, the militant faction ruling the Gaza Strip (officially labeled a “terrorist organization” by the United States, European Union, Canada and Japan), condemned the meeting between Gantz and Abbas on Sunday and accused the PA of turning its back on the national Palestinian cause by meeting with “the Zionist minister of war.”
Hamas officials denounced Abbas’ willingness to meet with Israel as effectively “stabbing Palestinians in the back” and “betraying the blood of Palestinian martyrs.”
PA leadership refused to publish any photos of Sunday’s meeting in Ramallah, perhaps afraid that the photo op with an Israeli official would only result in further rage and infuriation.
In Sunday’s meeting, significant concessions were offered by Israel, including giving funds for monthly terrorist stipends and welcoming previously unapproved Palestinians into Israeli workplaces. All this has been promised with nothing asked in return from the Palestinian Authority.
Gantz’s meeting with Abbas has been highly criticized by many throughout Israel’s government and around the world. Christians who support and stand with Israel need to know that the outcome of this meeting is very unfortunate and involves further endangering of Israel’s safety and national security. Giving in to international pressure and helping more moderate terrorists gain the upper hand over the more extreme terrorists is not the answer that will result in security for Israel’s citizens, nor an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.