Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz has held talks with the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah for the first time in years.
Abbas’s top aide, Hussein Sheikh, confirmed the meeting in a statement on Twitter. It took place on Sunday night in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the President maintains his headquarters.
The defence minister’s office said he told Abbas that Israel will take new measures to strengthen the Palestinian economy. It said they also discussed security issues and agreed to remain in touch.
A Palestinian official said Gantz and Abbas discussed possible steps toward improving relations. This included Palestinian demands for a halt in Israeli military operations occurring in Palestinian areas of the occupied West Bank. This could allow for the unification of families with relatives inside Israel and could make way for more Palestinian workers to move into Israel.
The meeting came two days after President Joe Biden met with Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett and urged him to take steps towards improving the lives of Palestinians
It signified a possible shift in the direction of Israel-Palestine relations. It was believed to be the highest level public meeting between the sides since 2014.
Although, Bennett, like others in his ruling coalition, is a hard-liner who opposes Palestinian independence, he has said that he supports building up the Palestinian economy and expanding autonomy for Palestinians.
He also is interested in bolstering Abbas in his rivalry with the ruling Hamas militant group in Gaza.
While Biden supports a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, his administration is focused on interim confidence-building measures.