Palestine minister holds talks with Israel’s Lapid in rare meeting

Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al Sheikh says he discussed “several political and bilateral issues” with Israeli FM Yair Lapid, without saying where the meeting took place.

Palestine’s minister for civil affairs has met Israel’s top diplomat in an official meeting, the first such encounter between the Jewish state’s current foreign minister and a senior Palestinian official.

“I met this evening with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and we discussed several political and bilateral issues,” Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al Sheikh said on Twitter.

“I have highlighted the need for a political horizon between the two parties based on international legitimacy,” he added, without saying where the meeting took place.

Lapid didn’t give any comments but didn’t deny that the meeting took place.

In late December, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz hosted talks with Mahmud Abbas on the Palestine president’s first visit to Israel for an official meeting since 2010.

At that time, Israel’s Defence Ministry announced “confidence-building measures” with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

These included a $32 million 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 occupation since the Six-Day War of 1967.

‘Courageous effort’

Sheikh had welcomed Abbas’ meeting with Gantz, saying at the time that it had been a “serious and courageous effort” towards a “political” solution.

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

Right-winger Bennett leads a motley coalition of parties ranging from the Jewish far-right to the centre and left, and includes an Israeli Arab party for the first time.

After those talks, hawkish Bennett, the former head of an illegal 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”.

About 475,000 Israeli Jews live in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967 and exercises full administrative control across much of the territory, where more than two million Palestinians live.

Israeli colonisation of the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem has continued under every Israeli government since 1967.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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