Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared willingness to interact with the new Israeli government, which took office on 13 June under the leadership of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
“We will deal with whoever the Israeli people choose – so we will deal with them,” Abbas said during conference of the Revolutionary Council of his Fatah faction in Ramallah.
Alluding to the formation of the Bennet government after 4 divisive elections since 2019, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leader sniped, “There was — and still is — a crisis of government in Israel. The new government, the change government, won by one vote.”
The 85-year-old Abbas, who was elected to a 4-year term in 2005, made no reference to his decision to cancel Palestinian elections in May. The last parliamentary ballot ended in the unexpected victory by Hamas in 2006, when the Palestinian public awarded the majority of parliamentary seats to the Islamist group. Abbas reacted by deposing the new Hamas government.
A bitter power struggle between the two Palestinian factions erupted into an internecine war in 2007, that ended with the Hamas seizure of control in the Gaza Strip, while the Ramallah-headquartered PA continued rule of Palestinian territories in the West Bank.
Abbas unilaterally extended his presidential term “by one year” when it expired on 9 January 2009 – but has remained in office since that time. He ultimately dissolved the Palestinian Parliament in 2018.
During his most recent speech, Abbas stressed that the PA’s future cooperation would be conditioned on the cessation of Israeli “aggression against the Palestinians, resolving our underlying issues and starting negotiations to reach a permanent solution to the conflict.”
The peace process between the two sides, mediated by the administration of former United States President Barack Obama, collapsed in 2014. The Palestinians rejected the Mideast Peace Plan unveiled by former President Donald Trump in 2020, which had been accepted by Israel. Ramallah also severed all diplomatic ties with Washington after accusing the Trump administration of a pro-Jerusalem bias, and bitterly rejected any Arab normalization of ties with the Jewish State.
The last time Abbas held talks with an Israeli leader was in 2010, when he claimed he walked out of when then-Prime Minister Netanyahu suggested that IDF troops should control the borders of a future Palestinian state for 4 decades to ensure security of the Jewish State.
Asserting that the PA is the only legal and legitimate Palestinian body that can be trusted with international aid donations, Abbas insisted of receiving forthcoming funds from Qatar intended to help rebuilding efforts in Gaza in the wake of last month’s Operation Guardian of the Walls conflict with Israel.
That position is consistent with that of the Bennett government, which is adamant that all humanitarian assistance to the Strip be deposited into designated PA bank accounts of respective governmental ministries, that are subject to more stringent monitoring. This in contrast to policy of the preceding Netanyahu administration, which permitted a Qatari envoy to personally deliver suitcases of cash to the Gaza-rulers.
Jerusalem officials believe that a solution will be found to the issue as early as next week, following a slated visit by an Israeli delegation to Cairo.
Abbas’ speech came just one day after Gaza terror groups threatened to resume violence against Israel unless the Qatari humanitarian aid was immediately transferred to the Palestinian enclave by the launching of incendiary and explosive-rigged balloons into Israel combined with demonstrations along the security fence. Among additional demands for the securing of a truce with Israel, they listed the reopening of border crossings and expansion of the Gaza fishing zone.
The statement was released after a meeting in the office of Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar. The Islamist leaders of Gaza have refused Israel’s condition that a long-term truce include the return of the bodies of 2 MIA soldiers and 2 citizens being held in the Strip; insisting the matter be negotiated separately.
Hamas seized the bodies of IDF soldiers, Sergeant First Class Oron Shaul and Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin after they were killed in action during the 2014 Gaza war, and has been holding the remains as “bargaining chips” since that time. The Islamist terror group has also been holding captive Israeli civilians Avraham “Avera” Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, both of whom reportedly suffer mental impairment, since they crossed into Gaza in separate incidents of their own accord in 2014-2015.