Gantz welcomes renewed Palestinian security ties, calls for peace talks

Defense minister says he made ‘considerable efforts’ to restore coordination, which he calls a ‘shared interest’ for both Israelis and Palestinians

Defense Minister Benny Gantz seen during a visit on the Israel-Lebanon border, northern Israel, on November 17, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz seen during a visit on the Israel-Lebanon border, northern Israel, on November 17, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday praised the Palestinian Authority’s decision to resume security cooperation with Israel, saying the move benefited both Israelis and Palestinians.

“Over the past few weeks I dedicated considerable efforts to renewing the security cooperation with the Palestinians. Yesterday, after weeks of disconnect, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun informed me that the Palestinian Authority was interested in restoring them,” Gantz said in a statement.

“Coordination is a shared interest, beneficial to the security of Israel’s citizens, and critical to the welfare and economic well-being of the Palestinians. Over the coming days, we will get working procedures in place to support the resumption of coordination,” he added.

The defense minister also called for the PA to restart peace talks with Israel.

“I, once again, call upon the Palestinian leadership to get back to the negotiating table, which is both a primary Israeli security interest and the most promising route to a more stable and prosperous future for our region,” he said.

Palestinian security forces man a roadblock at the entrance to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 19, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, the No. 2 in Gantz’s Blue and White party, similarly welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s decision.

“Our door is open to renewing negotiations and I urge the Palestinians to step through this door with no preconditions,” Ashkenazi said during a meeting in Jerusalem earlier Wednesday with his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, who also called for renewed peace talks.

The PA said Tuesday it would renew security and civil ties with Israel, six months after severing them over Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank, a move that has since been shelved.

The announcement came days after the US presidential election was won by Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who Ramallah anticipates will prove more empathetic to their cause than President Donald Trump. The PA severed all dealings with the Trump administration three years ago.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, February 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The severing of the ties with Israel came in May, after PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the Palestinians were no longer bound by agreements with Israel and the US, citing Israel’s declared intention to annex parts of the West Bank. Abbas had made similar threats for years to end security ties with Israel, but failed to follow through.

Israel suspended the annexation plan in August as part of a normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates. But the PA delayed renewing ties with Israel, reportedly believing that as long as Trump was in office, annexation was not fully off the table.

The renewal of ties also means that Ramallah will again accept tax revenues which Israel collects on its behalf. The so-called “clearance revenues” constitute around 60 percent of the PA’s budget. Ramallah had ceased accepting the tax transfers from Israel in late May, also in protest of annexation.

Without the tax money, the PA suffered an acute financial crisis. The PA has not paid its employees full salaries for months. Public sector salaries constitute around 20% of the West Bank’s GDP. Without them, many West Bank residents struggled to get by.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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