Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh on Wednesday night, in the second such public meeting in less than two months, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
Al-Sheikh is a close adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the official responsible for managing Ramallah’s ties with Jerusalem.
For decades, senior Israeli officials rarely met with their Palestinian counterparts, but that has begun to change under the current Israeli government.
Al-Sheikh said he told Lapid about the need for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as the “regional and international situation.”
“I emphasized to him the need for a political horizon based on signed agreements [between Israel and the PA] and international resolutions, as well as the cessation of unilateral measures that impede a two-state solution,” al-Sheikh wrote in Twitter.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed the meeting but declined to offer further details.
Under the previous government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, senior Israeli and Palestinians officials rarely met. But the current coalition is made up of centrist, Arab and left-wing, as well as right-wing, politicians who have established contacts with their Palestinian Authority counterparts.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz has met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas twice, including in the Gantz’s residence in Rosh HaAyin. Both meetings were followed by Israeli announcements fulfilling some Palestinian requests.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposed to renewed peace negotiations with the Palestinians and has refused to meet with Abbas. Nevertheless, his government has pledged to prop up the Palestinian Authority and strengthen its ailing economy, with Gantz spearheading the move.
Lapid is set to replace Bennett as prime minister in 2023, according to coalition agreements. In comments to reporters in early January, however, Lapid stressed that he would not dramatically alter the current policy toward Ramallah.
“Even after [I rotate in as prime minister], the coalition will be obligated to already-reached agreements, and I will abide by every agreement that I made with my partners,” Lapid said, adding that part of his agreement with Bennett was that neither would hold peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Al-Sheikh has been rising in the ranks of the Palestinian Authority in recent weeks, sparking discussion over whether he might succeed the octogenarian Abbas. Last month, al-Sheikh was promoted to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, the group’s highest decision making body.