Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has agreed to loan $155m to the Palestinian Authority as rare high-level talks with President Mahmoud Abbas conclude.
Gantz announced a series of gestures aimed at validating the Palestinian Authority and discrediting Hamas who is fighting to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation.
The new contact and Israeli gestures are signs of a shift in the relations between the two nations. Israel’s new government has shown interest in supporting President Abbas in his rivalry against Gaza’s ruling Hamas group.
Gantz reiterated Israel’s stance saying, “The stronger the Palestinian Authority is, the weaker Hamas will be. And the greater its ability to govern is, the more security we’ll have and the less we’ll have to do.”
Israel is also prepared to take new measures to strengthen the PA, according to Gantz. The two discussed security and agreed to stay in contact.
Gantz later confirmed that Israel would loan the PA 500 million shekels ($155m), which would be repaid with tax funds.
According to a Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, Gantz and Abbas discussed Palestinian demands for a halt in Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank, allowing the unification of families with relatives inside Israel, and allowing more Palestinian workers into Israel.
Palestinian resistance factions were not happy about the meeting. They condemned it, and Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said that such meetings “will deepen the Palestinian division and complicate the Palestinian situation”.
He added that Sunday’s meeting “was a continuation of the PA delusion of the possibility of achieving something to our people through the failed settlement path”.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Tareq Selmi described the meeting between Abbas and Grantz as a “stab”.
He said that the meeting “came at a time when the Israeli forces are continuing their attacks on Gaza and maintaining its years-long blockade on the territory,” he said.
“The blood of [Palestinian] children killed by the [Israeli] occupation army upon orders from Gantz is still on the ground and has not dried yet,” Selmi added.
These gestures from Israel come two days after President Joe Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet and urged him to take steps towards improving the lives of Palestinians.
Bennett is a hardline nationalist who opposes Palestinian statehood and previously led a powerful settler lobbying council.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s office played down the meeting. Israeli media outlets quoted a source close to the prime minister saying that there will be no diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
However, a legislator from the left-wing Meretz party Mossi Raz disagreed with this. He said that the dismissal of peace prospects is “outrageous”. Taking to Twitter, he wrote that the peace process is an Israeli interest.
Bennett’s office has repeatedly made clear that there are no plans to initiate a new round of peace talks. However, top Israeli officials are still showing support for the PA as it helps their interest against Hamas.