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Abbas calls Gantz with holiday greeting, discusses West Bank security

Defense minister said to stress PA’s responsibility in maintaining order in West Bank; phone call comes amid clashes in East Jerusalem and on Temple Mount

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (AP/Collage)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (AP/Collage)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Defense Minister Benny Gantz to congratulate him on the Jewish New Year, the PA news agency WAFA reported.

The short statement gave no further details of the call, which came amid rising tensions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Three days ago, from the United Nations General Assembly podium, Abbas denounced Israel for operating an “apartheid” regime and giving its military “total freedom” to kill Palestinians.

An Israeli official confirmed the talks and said the two also discussed the security situation. There was no official confirmation from Gantz’s office, with the call coming on the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The Walla news site said the conversation was a short one.

During their call, Gantz noted the importance of maintaining security and public order in the West Bank during the holiday, according to Army Radio, and stressed the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility in that regard.

Reports also indicated that Gantz and Abbas discussed continued cooperation between the Israeli military and Palestinian Authority security forces.

It comes following months of rising tension in the West Bank and amid several violent clashes in recent days between Palestinians and police in East Jerusalem and in the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.

Earlier Monday, Palestinians scuffled with police in Jerusalem’s Old City as Jewish visitors toured the flashpoint Temple Mount to mark the Jewish new year.

According to police, a group of young Palestinians barricaded themselves overnight in the Temple Mount’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and began launching fireworks from within as the Rosh Hashanah visits began.

On Sunday, shortly after Rosh Hashanah started, Palestinian rioters shot fireworks at Border Police in the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem. No injuries were reported.

An Israeli Border Police officer stands at her post near the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, which is under heightened security for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.(AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo)

Gantz has been the main point of contact between Israel and the Palestinian leader since the government took power in 2021. He first spoke on the phone with Abbas in mid-July 2021. The two later formally met in Ramallah in late August, marking the first such high-level contact between senior Israeli and Palestinian decision-makers in over a decade.

Since then, Gantz has met with the aging PA president several times over the past year, most recently in July to discuss security coordination ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel and the West Bank.

The meetings have come under fire by right-wing members of both the governing coalition and the opposition, and even encountered resistance from former prime minister Naftali Bennett while he held the role.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that during his time as prime minister, his government’s isolation of the PA chief “successfully brought about four historic peace agreements with Arab states,” referencing the Abraham Accords, which birthed diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and sparked a process aimed at full relations with Sudan.

Gantz has defended his meetings with Abbas by arguing that they were crucial for security reasons, adding that both he and Abbas believe in maintaining security ties in order to stabilize the region.

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