The highest-level meeting between Palestine and Israel comes days after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with US President Joe Biden in the White House, during which Biden reiterated support for a two-state solution.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas adjusts his glasses as he listens during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not pictured), in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 25, 2021.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas adjusts his glasses as he listens during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not pictured), in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 25, 2021. (Reuters Archive)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has met with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, officials said.

It was the highest-level meeting between Abbas and an Israeli minister to be made public since Israel's new government was formed in June.

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Security and economy discussed

Gantz, who heads a centrist party, told Abbas that Israel would take measures to strengthen the Palestinian economy, according to a statement from his office on Sunday.

"They also discussed shaping the security and economic situations in the West Bank and in Gaza," the statement said. "They agreed to continue communicating further on the issues that were raised during the meeting."

Hussein Al Sheikh, a member of Abbas' Fatah Central Committee, said the discussion included "all aspects" of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

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Collapsed peace talks

Peace talks between the two sides collapsed in 2014, though Israel over the past year has reached normalisation agreements with a number of Arab countries, under US sponsorship.

Israel's new government includes a patchwork of parties spanning the far left to far-right and includes for the first time a small Muslim faction.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads an ultranationalist party, opposes Palestinian statehood. But given the makeup of his coalition, any sensitive policy decisions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be difficult.

The meeting in Ramallah came just a couple of days after Bennett met with US President Joe Biden in the White House, during which Biden reiterated support for a two-state solution.

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Gazans protest blockade along Israeli frontier

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered on Sunday night along the separation fence with Israel, setting tires on fire as Gaza's Hamas rulers pressed ahead with a campaign aimed at pressuring Israel to ease a stifling blockade of the territory. 

One protester was moderately wounded by Israeli gunfire.

It was the second consecutive nighttime border protest and took place hours after Israeli warplanes carried out a series of air strikes on alleged Hamas targets in response to the unrest. Hamas officials have promised to hold nightly protests all week.

“The Zionist occupation bears all the repercussions and consequences of the tightening of the siege on Gaza and the escalation of the humanitarian crisis among its residents,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
“No calm or stability will be achieved as long as our people lack a free and dignified life."

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Israel's blockade is "collective punishment"

Israel, with Egypt's help, has maintained a tight blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, a year after winning a Palestinian election.

Israel says the closure, which tightly restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, is needed to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities. Critics say the closure, which has devastated the economy, amounts to collective punishment.

Israel has tightened the blockade since an 11-day war against Hamas in May while Egypt tries to broker a long-term cease-fire.
Israel has demanded that Hamas return the remains of two dead soldiers and release two captive Israeli civilians in exchange for easing the blockade.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies