On Monday, Israel’s defense minister announced a series gestures to strengthen the Palestinian Authority. These included plans to loan $150 Million to the cash-strapped autonomous government in the occupied West Bank.
This announcement was made just days after Benny Gantz, Defense Minister, met with Mahmoud Abubas, Palestinian President. It was the first high-level meeting between these two sides in many years.
After years of complete communication breakdown between Abbas’s and Israeli leaders, the stepped up contacts and Israeli gestures indicate a shift in direction. The new Israeli government stated that it is interested to support Abbas in his struggle against Gaza’s Hamas militant group.
Gantz said Monday that the stronger the Palestinian Authority, the weaker Hamas would be. “And the stronger its ability to govern, the more security will we have and the less we’ll need to do,” Gantz said to Israeli military correspondents Monday.
Two days ago, President Joe Biden asked Israel’s new prime Minister to make steps towards improving the lives and well-being of Palestinians.
Gantz’s office stated that he had told Abbas that Israel would take new steps to support the Palestinian economy. They also discussed security issues, and they agreed to keep in touch. This was the most high-profile public meeting between the parties since 2014.
Gantz’s office later on Monday confirmed that Israel had agreed a loan of 500 million shekels ($155million) to the Palestinian Authority. This money will be repaid using tax funds Israel normally collects from the Palestinians.
Israel will also issue work permits to 15,000 additional Palestinian workers and address the residency status of a number people who live in the occupied West Bank. These include Palestinians from Gaza, as well as foreign spouses of Palestinians.
Hussein Al Sheikh is a top Palestinian official responsible for overseeing relations with Israel. He stated that an initial agreement had been made to solve the situation of approximately 5,000 families.
He stated that it was the “first batch on the road to finalising and completing this file completely.”
Naftali Bennett, the Israeli Prime Minister, is a hardliner who supports Palestinian independence. He also opposes key partners in his diverse ruling coalition. Bennett said that he supports expanding Palestinian autonomy and building the Palestinian economy.
In the aftermath of the 11-day war in May, he is also interested in weakening Hamas. In an effort to press Israel into lifting its economic blockade, Hamas staged violent protests at the Israeli border. Egyptian-led efforts to broker a long-term ceasefire have failed in recent weeks.
Biden is a supporter of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, but his administration is focusing on interim confidence-building steps.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s former prime Minister, was hardline in his policy towards the Palestinians. He was supported by Donald Trump.
Trump’s administration took several steps to favor Israel, including moving U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem. Abbas stopped all contact with Israel and the U.S. in return.
Netanyahu claimed repeatedly that Abbas was not a reliable party for negotiating peace deals. This portrayal was dismissed by Netanyahu critics who see it as a pretext to avoid making concessions.