Palestinian president Abbas makes a rare visit to Israel

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas held talks with Israel Defence Minister Benny Gantz in his first official visit to Israel since 2010. The talks took place at Gantz’s home in the town of Rosh Haayin, said Israeli media.

After the talks, Israel Israel unveiled a package of “confidence-building measures” for the occupied West Bank on Wednesday

“We discussed the implementation of economic and civilian measures, and emphasised the importance of deepening security coordination and preventing terror and violence — for the well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians,” Gantz said after the meeting on Tuesday evening.

The “confidence-building measures” included a $32 million (100 million shekel) advance payment to the PA in taxes collected on its behalf by Israel, and the granting of 600 extra permits allowing Palestinian businessmen to cross into Israel.

It also announced the regularisation of 6,000 more Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, which has been under Israeli control since the Six-Day War of 1967.

Israel had already announced in October — for the first time since 2009 — the regularisation of the status of 4,000 Palestinians living in the large swathe of the West Bank known as Area C, where Israel exercises civilian as well as military control.

‘Courageous effort’

Palestinian civil affairs minister Hussein al-Sheikh welcomed the meeting with Gantz, saying it had been a “serious and courageous effort” towards a “political” solution.

“The meeting dealt with the importance of creating a political horizon that leads to a political solution, in accordance with international resolutions,” Sheikh said.

After Israel’s coalition government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was formed in June, Gantz had visited the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah in August for talks with Abbas, the first official meeting at such a level for several years.

But after those talks, hawkish Bennett, the former head of a settler lobby group who opposes Palestinian statehood, underlined that there was no peace process under way with the Palestinians, “and there won’t be one”.

Right-winger Bennett leads a motley coalition of parties ranging from the Jewish nationalist right to the centre and left.

Israel’s right-wing opposition Likud party condemned the latest meeting, saying that “concessions dangerous for Israel’s security are only a matter of time”.

(With inputs from agencies)

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