Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz praised the meeting, which took place on Tuesday night, at the latter’s home in the Rosh HaAyin area near Tel Aviv, as a “summit to secure profits and concessions.” for both peoples.
And according to an analysis by the British “Middle East Eye” website, the meeting in Gantz’s house actually served primarily personal purposes, both for them and for their allies.
The Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas, is in financial distress and struggling to assert itself as Israeli settler violence escalates.
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For Palestinian observers, it appears that the 86-year-old Abbas sought help from the Israelis to stay afloat.
Purpose of the meeting: the survival of power
In this context, Palestinian political analyst Hani Al-Masry told Al-Monitor: “It is clear that the purpose of this meeting was to discuss the continued existence of the Palestinian Authority in the light of the challenges it faces in the face. “
Although Gantz offered money to the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday, he also tacitly sought the money. The former army chief is set to inflate the army’s budget – and to indicate that the Palestinian Authority needs financial support to survive is one way to persuade its skeptical allies to open the financial chains.
In turn, Israeli analyst Sher Hever told the British website that the meeting was part of a campaign to “advance the interests of Israeli military officers by privatizing the army’s responsibilities.”
money and security
According to the report, Abbas has not met an Israeli official in Israel in public since 2010 – although he did travel across the Green Line to attend Shimon Peres’ 2016 funeral in his personal capacity.
This visit to Gantz’s home came at a critical time as settler attacks and the occupation’s aggression on Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank have increased in recent weeks.
After the meeting, Israel agreed to provide the Palestinian Authority with 100 million shekels ($ 32 million) in advance of the taxes that Israel collects on their behalf.
It also agreed to grant accommodation documents to some 6,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and 3,500 others from the Gaza Strip, in a “confidence-building” gesture between the two sides.
Al-Masry said the agreement “emphasizes that the Palestinian Authority has begun preparations to adopt an economic peace plan.” It means a security arrangement in exchange for the economy, and it is a dangerous development. “
He explained: “Which president goes to the meeting at night in this way as if he is hiding and acting like thieves?” Maybe one of them goes to a friend, lover or family member at night. ”
It is noteworthy that this meeting was also attended by Ghassan Alyan, the coordinator of the Israeli military liaison with the Palestinians, and his counterpart Hussein Al-Sheikh.
no political authority
None of the bodies, however, had the authority to make political decisions on the expansion or suspension of settlements in the West Bank, which had long hampered the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Thus, the meeting of “Gantz and Abbas” has no “political authority,” according to Al-Masry.
He said: “This is in addition to the fact that the Palestinian Authority does not need meetings to obtain Israeli support. Because Israel does not want the PA to collapse in the first place. “
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He added that the government apparently “only focuses on surviving and accepting the framework of economic peace”.
Al-Masry said that “the majority of Palestinians oppose this assembly.” It has also been condemned by some of the rival political factions in the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
He continued, “The Palestinian Authority is experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis. There is also an unprecedented crisis in legitimacy and democracy, especially the cancellation of the elections at the beginning of this year. In addition to the failure of its diplomatic approach and its absence. of any possibility of peace talks. “
The interests of the occupation army
Yet maintaining the security of settlers and settlements in the West Bank remains a top priority for Gantz and Israeli military leaders. It needs the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority to do so.
In December, towns in the vicinity of Nablus and Jenin, cities in the northern West Bank, became a hot spot for confrontations between settlers, the occupying forces and the Palestinians.
The meeting was also an opportunity for Gantz to push for “more autonomy to pursue interests” for the IDF. With suspicions that Naftali Bennett’s clumsy alliance may struggle to govern and even collapse.
“Gantz passed emergency budget meetings and last week alone won 7 billion shekels in additional defense spending without investigating,” Hever told MEE. In addition, Gantz recently received an increase in monthly payments to regular Israeli soldiers.
Hever said another reason for the meeting with Abbas was to “strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s ability to suppress Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation.”
“Gantz offered Abbas a loan to finance the salaries of Palestinian Authority employees and benefits for senior Palestinian officials,” he explained.
In turn, Abbas asked Gantz to keep the extremist settlers in check.
Yet, “for Gantz, the settlers are just another subcontractor, and their violence gives him the benefit of credible denial. “Instead of sending Israeli soldiers to expand the land grab directly into the West Bank,” said Hever.
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The Palestinian Authority is ‘no longer the same’
The Palestinian Authority’s struggle comes at a time when its opponents in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are gaining in popularity.
However, both movements have been identified by the United States as “terrorist entities” and are not currently in a position to enter into dialogue with Western powers.
The Palestinian Authority is more concerned about its external sources of support than about its internal sources of support. Because if they run in the election, they will lose.
It is as simple as that, as their main source of insurance comes first from Israel, then the United States, Arab countries and Europe.
There is a bumpy road ahead for the PA in the future: if Palestinian officials want access to the funds they need to keep the PA going. They must maintain security coordination with Israel – but it threatens to increase popularity among the Palestinians. “
With the escalation of settler violence under the watchful eye of the occupying forces and the Palestinian Authority, pressure is mounting on the authority to act. If that happens, the PA runs the risk of losing financial support from Israel and leaving nearly 180,000 public sector workers without salaries.
Al-Masry said: “The Palestinian Authority is no longer what it used to be, as it has enjoyed fundamental legitimacy within Palestine. “It had a clear political process and it relied on the strong history of Fatah’s struggle against Israel and the previous elections they won.”
(Source: Middle East Eye – Watan translation)