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Gantz could meet PA chief Abbas soon to ‘calm tensions,’ minister says

Issawi Frej indicates defense minister may travel to Ramallah to discuss strengthening PA and curbing wave of Palestinian terror attacks

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) attends a conference in the Eshkol region, southern Israel. on July 13, 2021; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech regarding COVID-19, at the Palestinian Authority headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on May 5, 2020. (Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) attends a conference in the Eshkol region, southern Israel. on July 13, 2021; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech regarding COVID-19, at the Palestinian Authority headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on May 5, 2020. (Flash90)

Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej indicated on Thursday that Defense Minister Benny Gantz may soon travel to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as part of efforts to strengthen the PA and calm tensions amid a wave of terror attacks.

Frej said he believes that as the Palestinian Authority has a major influence on residents of East Jerusalem — where it technically has no legal jurisdiction — strengthening it would reduce the rise in terror attacks in Jerusalem.

“I had a conversation this week with Gantz… and I believe in the coming days there will be an interesting meeting,” Frej told Channel 12 news. Asked if he meant another meeting between the defense minister and Abbas, Frej said the two may “meet again.”

Such a meeting would be Gantz’s second with Abbas since the current government was sworn in in June. The previous meeting was the first of its kind since 2010.

“They spoke about keeping in contact, and being in touch at least once a month,” Frej noted on Monday in reference to the previous meeting.

“[Meetings will happen] in the coming days, between ministers and Abu Mazen, and others,” he added, referring to Abbas by his nom de guerre.

Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The meeting would likely deal with proposals for security and economic cooperation aimed at helping the PA govern in the West Bank and weakening the rival Hamas terror group.

Separately, the Walla news site reported that Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar told members of the high-level security cabinet on Sunday that the PA is in a difficult economic and governmental situation, and that there is a fear of its collapse.

Citing two ministers present at the meeting, Walla said Bar suggested Israel work to strengthen the PA and weaken Hamas.

The past few weeks have seen a rise in Palestinian terror attacks, with four taking place in Jerusalem alone, including a deadly shooting committed by a member of Hamas.

The PA leader rarely met with Israeli ministers for several years during the previous administration of Benjamin Netanyahu, which saw ties with the Palestinians grow increasingly strained.

In October, Frej, along with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, met with Abbas and senior PA officials.

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