Thursday, May 30, 2024

Palestinian and Israeli leaders discuss security ahead of Biden visit

Israeli Prime Ministet Yair Lapid called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss security issues ahead of next week’s visit by US President Joe Biden to the region. It was the first such a conversation between Abbas and an Israeli leader in several years.

Lapid, serving in a caretaker capacity until Israel once again attempts to vote in a new government in November, spoke with his Palestinian counterpart about “the continuation of cooperation and the need to ensure quiet and calm,” according to a statement from his office.

An aide to Abbas confirmed the pair had “discussed the latest situation briefly.”

Abbas also met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at his headquarters in Ramallah on Thursday, a meeting that reportedly “went well” and ended with the pair agreeing to “avoid any steps that undermine stability,” according to the Defense Ministry.

Abbas and Gantz have met more than once since the most recent Israeli government was formed and last year announced a program to improve economic conditions in the West Bank, although it’s not clear how much of that has been enacted.

The Palestinian Authority leader also reportedly spoke to Israeli President Isaac Herzog on the phone.

Biden is visiting Israel and Palestine next week and expects to meet with leaders of both.

An adviser to Abbas has told Israeli media that the Palestinian leader aims to use the US president’s visit as an opportunity to try to change the diplomatic situation between Israel and Palestine – a tall order given that the official peace process collapsed over a decade ago.

Abbas’ reported plans represent a major about-face for the Palestinian Authority, which stopped taking calls from Washington during the Donald Trump administration after the former president moved the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There are few indications the Biden administration is rushing to return things to the pre-Trump status quo, however, with no discussion of even opening a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem.

Despite what some may see as signs of a thaw between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, violence between the two states shows no signs of stopping. According to the United Nations, Israel killed 46% more Palestinians in 2021 than it had in 2020, a statistic that has alarmed officials. Amnesty International labeled Israel an apartheid state in February, becoming the fourth major human rights organization to do so.

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