Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly extended invitations to a pair of left-wing Israeli government ministers for political talks.
According to Channel 12 news, Abbas sent the invitations last week to Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej, both of the dovish Meretz party.
The network, which did not cite a source, asserted the purpose of the meetings was to discuss politics, not Horowitz and Frej’s ministerial duties, thus putting Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in an uncomfortable spot as to whether to approve them.
Bennett’s office said in response that it had received no requests from the ministers to meet with Abbas.
Frej has been pushing to expand ties between Israel and the Palestinian Authority since taking office in June and has organized a number of high-level contacts between Israeli and PA officials.
Last month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Abbas in Ramallah, the first high-level face-to-face talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials in over a decade.
Bennett, who heads the right-wing Yamina party, has signaled he won’t follow suit, saying in an interview this month that he sees no reason to meet Abbas. The premier cited the PA’s pursuit of war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and continued payment of monthly stipends to security prisoners, including those convicted of killing Israelis.
Bennett also reiterated his opposition to a Palestinian state, while voicing support for continued ties and connections with Palestinian officials in order to maintain calm and security coordination.
The television report came after both Bennett and Abbas addressed the UN General Assembly over the past week. The prime minister made no mention of the Palestinians in his speech, while Abbas demanded Israel withdraw to the so-called 1967 lines within a year or face repercussions.
Bennett leads a diverse coalition of right-wing nationalists, centrists, left-wing parties and an Islamist list.