Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has for months been trying unsuccessfully to hold a meeting with Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas, Channel 12 news reported Tuesday.
The Ra’am chief, whose Islamist faction is part of Israel’s ruling coalition, has yet to formally respond to the request, according to the network.
“If I meet with [Mahmoud Abbas], it’s a controversy, and if I don’t meet with him, it’s a controversy,” Mansour Abbas said when asked about the matter in an interview with the network on Tuesday. “Let’s let time do its thing.”
The new government has taken steps to boost trust between Israel and the Palestinians, despite the fact that there are currently no public peace talks being held with the PA.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz in August met with Mahmoud Abbas, the first such public meeting between high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials in over a decade. At a briefing following the meeting, Gantz called for the beleaguered PA to be bolstered as a bulwark against Hamas and other terror groups.
The defense minister in August also said that Israel had offered to transfer NIS 500 million ($155 million) to the Palestinian Authority, in order to keep the cash-strapped government afloat. Israel has also increased the number of permits for Palestinian workers to enter Israel, mostly for construction.
Meanwhile, Ra’am’s Abbas met with Jordanian monarch King Abdullah II in Amman on Tuesday.
In a statement, the Jordanian Royal Court said Abdullah and Mahmoud Abbas discussed the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Abdullah reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the court said.
Additionally, the two stressed the importance of maintaining the status quo at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The Temple Mount, known to Muslims for its Al-Aqsa Mosque, is the holiest site for Jews and site of the third holiest shrine in Islam. Jordan serves as the custodian.
“Abbas expressed appreciation for His Majesty the King’s stances towards the Palestinian cause and Jordan’s tireless efforts to preserve the status quo in Jerusalem,” according to the Jordanian court.
However, later on Tuesday, Jordan reportedly informed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office that Abdullah didn’t discuss diplomatic issues with Mansour Abbas during their meeting.
Citing an unnamed source familiar with the matter, the Kan public broadcaster said the Jordanians told Bennett’s office that its statement was a mistake, and that the two did not discuss diplomatic issues.
Until today, the Jordanian monarch has never met an Arab Israeli party chief who was a sitting member of an Israeli government. Ra’am is the first Arab Israeli party to join an Israeli coalition in decades, while Abdullah has ruled since 1999.
Jordan’s ruling Hashemite family has also traditionally had an adversarial relationship with local Islamist factions, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. Ra’am shares ideological ties with the Brotherhood, and draws inspiration from some of the same Islamist thinkers.
The new Israeli government has sought a reset of ties with Jordan. Relations between Jerusalem and Amman reached historic lows in the later years of the administration of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett secretly met Abdullah in early July, almost immediately after taking office. Bennett later vowed to “fix the relationship” with the neighboring kingdom during a speech to the Knesset.