Palestinian president and Israeli defense minister meet

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met Thursday in the occupied West Bank to discuss security coordination ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to the region next week.

The peace process collapsed more than a decade ago. High-level meetings between Israeli and Palestinian leaders are rare and tend to focus on day-to-day economic and security coordination.

An Israeli statement said the meeting in Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered, was conducted in “positive terms.” It said the two sides agreed to “continue security coordination and to avoid activities that may cause instability.”

Gantz wished Abbas and the Palestinian people a happy Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday beginning this weekend, the statement said.

Abbas “stressed the importance of creating a political horizon, respecting the signed agreements and stopping the actions and measures that lead to the deterioration of the situation,” Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior aide, tweeted.

Abbas also stressed the importance of having a “calm atmosphere before President Biden’s visit, which we welcome,” the tweet said.

Gantz met with Abbas a couple of times last year and announced measures to improve economic conditions in the occupied West Bank. He remains defense minister in a caretaker government ahead of elections planned for Nov. 1.

Abbas leads the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank. Polls say nearly 80% of Palestinians want him to resign, in part because of his close cooperation with Israel. Last year he called off the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.

Biden is expected to meet with top Israeli and Palestinian leaders next week.

The Palestinians seek a state in the occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 war.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and views the entire city as its capital. It withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but imposed a crippling blockade when the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from Abbas’ forces two years later, limiting his authority to parts of the West Bank,

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