Bennett’s top ally: PM won’t meet Mahmoud Abbas, he’s ‘not a partner’

A prominent political ally of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reiterated on Tuesday that the prime minister is opposed to meeting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, following a number of high-level contacts between the new Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, No. 2 in Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party, cited the Palestinian Authority’s prosecution of charges of war crimes against Israel at the International Criminal Court and the continued payment of monthly salaries to security prisoners, including those convicted of killing Israelis.

“Abu Mazen pays money to terrorists who kill Jews,” Shaked said at the annual conference of the Institute for Counterterrorism Policy at Reichman University, using Abbas’ nom de guerre. He is suing IDF soldiers and commanders in The Hague, and is therefore not a partner.

She added that “the Prime Minister will not meet him and does not intend to meet him.”

Bennett told American Jewish leaders earlier this month that he would not meet with Abbas, citing the Palestinian Authority’s president’s decision to submit Israel to the International Criminal Court.

In March, the ICC prosecutor announced that she was opening an investigation into the 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 investigation. from the probe.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (composite / AP)

Bennett’s informal call with leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations came days after Defense Minister Benny Gantz met Abbas in Ramallah, in the first high-level face-to-face talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials in more than a decade.

In response to a question about the importance of the meetings in terms of the new government’s policy toward the Palestinians, Bennett reiterated his belief that no political breakthrough could be achieved in the near future. However, even if the conflict is not resolved, as is currently believed, there are steps that can be taken to “reduce the scope of friction” with the Palestinians, as the participants quoted him as saying.

Abbas also spoke with Gantz and President Isaac Herzog in two phone calls last week to celebrate the Jewish New Year, expressing hope for increased cooperation.

Historically, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have maintained security cooperation in the West Bank that both consider vital. But security relations declined last year as relations with the Palestinians deteriorated amid a series of moves by then US President Donald Trump that seemed to favor the Israeli position. Abbas said they would return to their posts after US President Joe Biden took office in January.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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