Israel's Gantz Planned to Join Abbas-Abdullah Meeting Without Informing Bennett

Last week Gantz's office released a statement saying his visit to India will be brought forward so as to begin just four days before Bennett's planned visit to the country, in a move that led to a friction between their offices

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Knesset, in November.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Knesset, in November. Credit: Emil Salman
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

Defense Minister Benny Gantz wants to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah next week, on the occasion of the king’s Monday visit to Ramallah.

The meeting, which has not been finalized yet, would take place at the same time as the six-way “Negev Summit” with foreign ministers from the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt.

>> Mideast summit: live updates here

The Jordanian foreign minister, who was also informally invited to the summit, is expected to be in Ramallah along with the king. Jordanian and Palestinian officials have told Haaretz he isn’t expected to join his counterparts at the Israeli summit.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was not informed in advance of Gantz’s intentions, Israel Channel 13 News reported Saturday evening. The two are expected to meet Sunday and to discuss the possibility of Gantz’s proposed meeting.

According to political sources who asked not to be identified, Bennett expressed displeasure with Gantz’s failure to tell him of his plans. It is not yet clear whether the meeting will in fact be held: not only because of the need for Bennett’s approval, but also on account of the Palestinians and the Jordanians.

Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper of Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party said in an interview with Channel 13 Saturday that the proposed event in Ramallah was “not diplomatic but rather security-related. [Gantz] is trying to avoid an escalation at this time.

The question of [his] participation will be resolved between the prime minister and the defense minister, there is some friction there – I hope it will be resolved in the coming days,” Tropper said.

Last week Gantz’s office issued a statement saying the defense minister’s planned visit to India was being brought forward, so as to begin just four days before the prime minister’s scheduled special visit. The event led to friction between Gantz’s office and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Gantz has held several landmark meetings with Middle Eastern leaders during the past year. In November, he signed a defense memorandum with his Moroccan counterpart, Abdellatif Loudiyi, during his two-day visit to the North African kingdom.

In February, he met with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and other senior leadership on a historic visit to sign a deal to formalize security ties between the two countries.

Gantz met PA President Abbas in August, in the first meeting of a senior Israeli government official with a Palestinian Authority leader since 2010. Gantz hosted Abbas at his home in Rosh Ha'ayin in December, to further discuss security, civil and economic issues.

Following their meeting, Gantz met with King Abdullah to discuss strengthening Israeli-Jordanian ties.

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