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Israeli & Palestinian leaders have first conversation in years — Analysis

Yair lapid calls Mahmoud abbas in an effort to maintain peace prior to the US president’s visit.

Israeli PM Yair Lapid called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss security ahead of next week’s visit by US President Joe Biden to Israel and the West Bank on Friday, marking the first such conversation between Abbas and an Israeli leader in several years.

Lapid, serving in a caretaker capacity until the country once again attempts to vote in a new government in November, spoke with his Palestinian counterpart about “Continued cooperation, and the need for quiet and peace,” according to a statement from his office. An aide to Abbas confirmed the pair had “We briefly discussed the current situation.

Abbas also met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at his headquarters in Ramallah on Thursday, a meeting that reportedly “It went very well” and ended with the pair agreeing to “Avoid any actions that could undermine stability,” according to the Defense Ministry. Abbas and Gantz have met more than once since the most recent Israeli government was formed and last year announced a program to improve economic conditions in the West Bank, although it’s not clear how much of that has been enacted. 

According to reports, the leader of the Palestinian Authority also spoke on phone with Isaac Herzog, President of Israel. 

Biden plans to visit Israel and Palestine next Tuesday and meet with the leaders of each country. An adviser to Abbas has told Israeli media that the Palestinian leader aims to use the US president’s visit as an opportunity to try to change the diplomatic situation between Israel and Palestine – a tall order given that the official peace process collapsed over a decade ago. 

Abbas’ reported plans represent a major about-face for the Palestinian Authority, which stopped taking calls from Washington during the Trump administration after the former president moved the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv, the country’s internationally-recognized capital, to Jerusalem, which it considers its rightful capital. However, there are no indications that the Biden administration will rush to restore things to their pre-Trump state. There is also no talk of opening a Palestinian consulate to Jerusalem. 

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Although there may be signs that the Israeli-Palestinian leaders are at peace, the violence between them shows no sign of abating. Officials are alarmed by the fact that Israel has killed 46% more Palestinians than in 2020 in 2021, according to United Nations. Amnesty International in February called Israel an apartheid nation, making it the fourth most important human rights organisation to do this.

Israel annexed the West Bank following the 1967 war and has constructed a massive wall to “Protect” desirable enclaves of the Palestinian territory they have claimed as their own settlements. This two-state solution, previously favored by international communities, would restore Israel’s pre-1967 borders as well as allow Palestine to be an independent country in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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