Israeli and Palestinian leaders talk to each other by phone for the first time in years



Israel’s new Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had a phone conversation on Friday morning, reportedly the first such contact between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in five years.

A brief statement from Lapid’s office said the pair « spoke about continued cooperation and the need to ensure peace and quiet. »

Abbas congratulated Lapid on his appointment as prime minister, the statement said, while Lapid conveyed his best wishes to the Palestinian leader ahead of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday which begins on Friday.

The Palestinian Wafa news agency also reported the phone conversation, adding that President Abbas had expressed his wish for « peace and stability to reign in the region as soon as possible ».

Lapid’s predecessor, right-winger Naftali Bennett, chose not to speak with Abbas during his 12 months as prime minister, while longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu oversaw a souring of Israel’s relationship with the Authority. Palestinian Authority, and is reported to have last spoken to the Palestinian Authority leader in 2017.

Underscoring the change in approach of the current Israeli government, Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited Abbas at his office in Ramallah on Thursday evening.

During the meeting, the Palestinian leader « stressed the importance of creating a political horizon [and] commitment to signed agreements,” Wafa reported, referring to a series of agreements signed between the two parties in the 1990s.

A statement from Gantz’s office said the meeting discussed « security and civilian coordination ahead of US President Biden’s visit to Israel. »

In addition to Israel, Biden is also expected to travel to the West Bank next week where he will meet Abbas – in the first meeting between the Palestinian leader and a US president since 2017. The White House hopes the meeting will help draw a line under the significant breakdown in US-Palestinian relations observed under the Trump administration.

In a separate development earlier this week, Abbas traveled to Algeria where he met Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, also for the first time in several years.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of Algeria’s independence, the official Algerian news agency reported.

Relations between Abbas’s Fatah party, the largest Palestinian faction, and Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, have been strained for many years. In June 2007, the two groups were in open conflict with each other, in violence that saw the end of Palestinian Authority control over Gaza.

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