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Palestinian Leader Abbas Visits Israel's Gantz in Rare Trip


FILE - At left, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seen in a handout photo provided by the Palestinian Authority's press office, Aug. 1, 2021; and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is seen on June 7, 2021.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas visited Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday during a rare trip to Israel for what Gantz's department said were talks on security and civil matters.

Gantz told Abbas that he intended to "continue to promote actions to strengthen confidence in the economic and civilian fields, as agreed during their last meeting," an Israeli Defense Ministry statement said.

"The two men discussed security and civil matters," it added of the meeting, which Israeli media reported took place at Gantz's home in Rosh HaAyin, central Israel.

In late August, Gantz visited the Palestinian Authority's headquarters for talks with Abbas, the first official meeting at such a level in several years.

But after those talks, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that there was no peace process ongoing with the Palestinians, "and there won't be one."

Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al Sheikh tweeted on Wednesday that "Abbas met with Benny Gantz, where the meeting dealt with the importance of creating a political horizon that leads to a political solution in accordance with international resolutions."

The pair also discussed "the tense conditions on the ground due to the practices of settlers, and the meeting dealt with many security, economic and humanitarian issues."

Opposition party Likud condemned the latest meeting, saying that "concessions dangerous for Israel's security were only a matter of time."

"The Israeli-Palestinian government has put the Palestinians and Abbas back on the agenda ... it is dangerous for Israel," the party added in a statement.

Relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, have deteriorated substantially in recent years.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu sidelined the issue during his 2009 to 2021 tenure as prime minister with peace talks suspended in 2014 while Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank expanded.

Bennett, the former head of a settler lobbying council who opposes Palestinian statehood, leads a coalition that took over in June.

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