Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is preventing Defense Minister Benny Gantz from meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli television reported Friday.
Gantz was disappointed after Bennett rejected his recent request, arguing he is the most senior and appropriate official to meet with Abbas in light of the premier’s right-wing electoral base, according to Channel 12 news.
No reason was given for Bennett reportedly rebuffing Gantz’s request.
The network, which did not cite a source, said Gantz claimed that if Foreign Minister Yair Lapid were to meet with Abbas, there would be significant political implications that they currently would not want to face.
It was not clear what Gantz believed the implications of a meeting between Lapid and Abbas would be.
The report further said Gantz sees great importance as defense minister in meeting with Abbas and that he would work to advance and strengthen ties between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Gantz spoke with Abbas by phone last month, one of a growing number of high-level contacts between Israel and the PA since the new Israeli government’s swearing-in in June.
While the government’s left-wing and centrist ministers have shown an interest in shoring up the beleaguered Palestinian Authority, the more hawkish Bennett has not yet spoken to Abbas and opposes a renewal of negotiations toward a political settlement between the two sides. However, he has indicated willingness to promote steps that improve economic relations.
Israeli officials have repeatedly said they hope to strengthen the PA since the recent round of violence in May between Israel and the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip.
According to Channel 12, Gantz also advised Bennett to trim down plans for new housing units in West Bank settlements, noting they would be the first such homes approved since US President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January. Both the Biden administration and Abbas have criticized those building plans.