Hamas and Islamic Jihad slammed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday for “stabbing the Palestinian people in the back” by meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz a day earlier.
“President Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and what they have sacrificed. It is a betrayal of the blood of the martyrs,” Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanou was quoted by the Times of Israel as saying.
A second Hamas spokesperson, Hazim Qasim, further accused Abbas of “encouraging Arab countries to normalize with Israel” by meeting Gantz, an ironic charge given that the PA at the time described the Trump-led normalization deals a “stab in the back.”
“This weakens the Palestinian stance that rejects normalization,” Qasim said.
The Gaza-based Islamic Jihad terror group joined the fray, noting Gantz’s past as the Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff.
“The blood of children killed by the army on Gantz’s orders has not yet dried, even as President Abbas meets him in Ramallah,” said Islamic Jihad spokesperson Tariq Silmi in a statement.
Gantz and Abbas’ meeting marked the first time in over a decade that senior Palestinian and Israeli officials had been in the same room for discussions.
The meeting took place hours after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett returned from Washington, DC, where he met with President Joe Biden.
“This evening I met with PA [President] Mahmoud Abbas to discuss security-policy, civilian and economic issues,” Gantz tweeted after the late-night exchange.
He added Israel was ready to strengthen the Palestinian economy.
Senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh also tweeted the two had discussed “all aspects of Palestinian-Israeli relations.”
While Bennett has vowed to bolster the Palestinian government as well as its economy, he has nixed the idea of establishing a Palestinian state.
He told the New York Times in an interview last week Israel wasn’t interested in peace talks with the Palestinians so long as they have a “fractured and rudderless” government.
“This government will neither annex nor form a Palestinian state, everyone gets that,” he said. “I’m prime minister of all Israelis, and what I’m doing now is finding the middle ground — how we can focus on what we agree upon.”
An official in the Prime Minister’s Office doubled down on Monday, saying the Gantz-Abbas meeting dealt mainly with security issues.
“There is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians nor will there be,” the official said.
Lawmaker MK Mossi Raz, whose leftwing Meretz party sits in Bennett’s motley coalition, called the official’s statement “outrageous.”
“Why not have a diplomatic process? A diplomatic process is in Israel’s interest,” he tweeted.
Biden told Bennett last week that he hoped Israel would realize “the importance of steps to improve the lives of Palestinians and support greater economic opportunities for them.”
He further called on both sides to understand “the importance of refraining from actions that could exacerbate tensions, contribute to a sense of unfairness, and undermine efforts to build trust,” a readout from the White House said.
In July, the Israeli government approved the confiscation of 600 million NIS ($186 million) from Palestinian tax revenues in accordance with an Israeli law that penalizes the PA for its so-called pay-to-slay program. The sum is equal to the amount paid out in 2020 to convicted terrorists and their families.
However, the Times of Israel reported that Israel and the PA have been holding talks for a financial aid plan that may see hundreds of millions funneled into Ramallah’s ailing economy.