Hamas and Islamic Jihad condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday for meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, after the two held a rare high-level meeting of senior Israeli and Palestinian politicians on Sunday night.
“President Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and what they have sacrificed. It is a betrayal of the blood of the martyrs,” said Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanou in a statement.
Gantz and Abbas met in Ramallah on Sunday night, in the first such meeting between the sides in over a decade. The last meeting of a similar stature took place between former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas in Jerusalem in September 2010.
A second Hamas spokesperson, Hazim Qasim, further accused Abbas of “encouraging Arab countries to normalize with Israel” by meeting the senior Israeli official.
“This weakens the Palestinian stance that rejects normalization,” Qasim said.
The Islamic Jihad terror group slammed Abbas for meeting Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff who oversaw the Israeli military during successive battles between Israel and Hamas.
“The blood of children killed by the army on Gantz’s orders has not yet dried, even as President Abbas meets him in Ramallah,” said Islamic Jihad spokesperson Tariq Silmi in a statement.
A statement from Gantz’s office said the two discussed issues related to security, diplomacy, the economy and civil affairs in wide-ranging talks. The new Israeli government has vowed to strengthen the ailing Palestinian Authority economy, seeing it as a key Israeli interest.
In a statement on Sunday, an official close to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett emphasized that Gantz’s meeting with Abbas did not herald a renewal of the long-dormant peace process with the Palestinians.
“This is a meeting that deals with security issues. There is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians nor will there be,” the official said in a statement issued to reporters on condition of anonymity.
In recent years, Netanyahu and Abbas crossed paths on occasion, but ties became increasingly strained as the peace process went on indefinite hold; their last public phone call was in 2017 following a Palestinian terror attack.
But Bennett’s government has vowed to prop up the Palestinian Authority, which is undergoing an extended economic and political crisis. At the same time, Bennett has vowed warming relations will not lead to an independent Palestinian state.
Gantz spoke on the phone with Abbas in mid-July, marking the highest-level public contact between the two sides since Netanyahu’s 2017 phone call. A flurry of meetings and phone calls have followed: Public Security Minister Omer Barlev spoke with Abbas a few weeks later, while ministers on both sides held rare meetings with their counterparts.