Israel says it will lend money to Palestinians after years of high-level talks

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on July 19, 2021. Gil Cohen-Magen / Poole via REUTERS / Photo from file

JERUSALEM, August 30. (Reuters) – Israel will provide the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority with more than $ 150 million after the parties hold a summit over the years, Israeli officials said Monday, downgrading the prospects for any major diplomatic breakthrough.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who has overall responsibility for the Israeli-occupied West Bank, traveled to the Palestinian self-government zone in the territory for previously undisclosed talks Sunday with President Mahmoud Abbas.

A source close to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the prime minister had approved the Gantz-Abbas meeting and considered it a “routine” affair. “There is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians and there will never be,” a source told Reuters.

US-sponsored negotiations to establish a Palestinian state stalled in 2014. The Gantz-Abbas meeting took place when Bennett, an anti-Palestinian nationalist, returned from his first talks with US President Joe Biden in Washington.

PA spokesman Hussein al-Sheikh said the talks with Gantz covered “all aspects” of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Abbas coordinates the security of the West Bank with Israel. Both sides fear Hamas Islamists, who took over the Gaza Strip, another Palestinian territory, from Abbas in 2007. More details

But Israel is annoyed by the PA stipend given to militants imprisoned or killed in attacks on Israelis. In protest, the Bennett government last month withheld $ 180 million in 2020 tax revenue it collected on behalf of the PA. A spokesperson for Gantz said the policy has not changed. More details

The 500 million shekels ($ 155 million) loan was intended to help “the PA’s vital functions” and will be repaid in 2022 from future tax revenues collected by Israel, the spokesman said.

In a White House statement, Biden, during talks with Bennett on Friday, reaffirmed his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “stressed the importance of steps to improve the lives of Palestinians.”

Bennett did not mention the Palestinians in public speeches at the White House, which focused on the nuclear program of Iran’s nemesis.

Gantz, a centrist in Bennett’s coalition government, has in the past called for a resumption of the peace process with Palestinians seeking a state of their own in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel seized these territories in the 1967 war in the Middle East.

But any renewed movement on the issue could shake the foundations of Bennett’s left-wing, right-wing, centrist and Arab government, which ended the 12-year presidency of conservative Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister in June.

In a sign of divisions within the coalition, Mossi Raz, a left-wing MP from Meretz, said Bennett’s source’s rejection of the prospect of resuming peace talks was “outrageous.”

“The peace process is in Israel’s interests,” Raz tweeted.

Additional report by Dan Williams and Ali Sawafta; Editing by Angus Maxuen and Howard Goller

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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