A top political ally of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reiterated Tuesday that the premier opposes meeting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, following a number of high-level contacts between Israel’s new government and the PA.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, the No. 2 in Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party, cited the PA’s pursuit of war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court and continued payment of monthly stipends to security prisoners, including those convicted of killing Israelis.
“Abu Mazen pays money to terrorists who murder Jews,” Shaked told the annual conference of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism Policy at Reichman University, using Abbas’s nom de guerre. “He sues IDF soldiers and commanders at The Hague and therefore is not a partner.”
“The prime minister won’t meet with him and doesn’t intend to meet with him,” she added.
Bennett told American Jewish leaders earlier this month he won’t meet with Abbas, citing the PA chief’s decision to bring Israel before the ICC.
In March, the ICC’s chief prosecutor announced that she was opening an investigation into actions committed by Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem since June 13, 2014. It was Abbas’s request to The Hague that led to the opening of the probe.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (Composite/AP)
Bennett’s off-the-record call with leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations came days after Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Abbas in Ramallah, in the first high-level face-to-face talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials in over a decade.
Asked about the meetings significance in terms of the new government’s policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians, Bennett reiterated his belief that no political breakthrough was possible in the near future. However, even if the conflict cannot be solved, as he currently believes, there are steps that can be taken to “reduce the scope of friction” with the Palestinians, the participants quoted him as having said.
Abbas also spoke with Gantz and President Isaac Herzog in a pair of phone calls last week to mark the Jewish new year, expressing hopes for increased cooperation.
Israel and the PA historically maintain security cooperation in the West Bank that both see as vital. However, security ties were downgraded last year as ties with the Palestinians soured amid a flurry of moves by then-United States president Donald Trump that appeared to favor the Israeli position. Abbas said that they would reinstated after US President Joe Biden took office in January.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.