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Lapid Meeting with PA Official Stirs Partisan Objections on Both Sides

Lapid Meeting with PA Official Stirs Partisan Objections on Both Sides

Tuesday, 25 January, 2022 - 06:45
Children playing in a pool of water collected from heavy rain that hit the Gaza Strip in recent days (DPA)

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs head Hussein al-Sheikh met on Sunday, in the first meeting to be made public between Lapid, who is also alternate prime minister, and a senior Palestinian figure.

The meeting sparked a wave of criticism from both right-wing and left-wing parties on both sides.

Right-wing opposition forces in Israel considered it “a decline towards negotiations for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” according to a Likud party spokesperson.

“We have aborted terror funding by the Palestinian Authority, but the Bennett-Lapid government is reviving and strengthening its role,” said the spokesperson.

On the Palestinian side, the opposition came from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop any meetings with Israeli officials.

Hamas condemned the meeting between Lapid and Sheikh late on Sunday, calling the “ridiculous” meetings between Israeli and Palestinian officials a “betrayal that must be halted immediately.”

“PA’s conversations [with Israel] reflect how far the authority has fallen,” Hamas reportedly said in a statement. “Continuation of these ridiculous meetings is a betrayal and must be halted immediately.”

For his part, Lapid said that the meeting with Sheikh is part of a series of meetings in search of ways to reduce tension and open up prospects for positive change for the benefit of both parties and to advance towards more Israeli facilities for the lives of Palestinians.

He confirmed that he briefed both Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz about the meeting before it took place.

The briefing dealt with security and economic conditions.

“I met this evening with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and we discussed several political and bilateral issues,” 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 encounter took place.

In late December, Gantz hosted talks with PA head Mahmoud Abbas.

At that time, Israel’s defense ministry announced “confidence-building measures” with the PA.

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

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

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