Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs head Hussein al-Sheikh met on Sunday, in the first meeting to be made public between Lapid, who is also alternate prime minister, and a senior Palestinian figure.
After the meeting, Sheikh tweeted: "I met this evening with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and we discussed several political and bilateral issues. I have highlighted the need for a political horizon between the two parties based on international legitimacy."
I met this evening with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and we discussed several political and bilateral issues. I have highlighted the need for a political horizon between the two parties based on #international legitimacy https://t.co/YAN9VqebOc— حسين الشيخ Hussein Al Sheikh (@HusseinSheikhpl) January 23, 2022
Lapid’s office declined to comment.
Lapid said earlier this month: “Even after a coalition rotation, I will remain with the same people and the same disagreements. I plan to stand behind the agreement I made with my partners.”
The current governing coalition in Israel is made up of a diverse group of parties from the Left, Right and Center of the political spectrum, which have agreed not to make any dramatic moves when it comes to the Palestinians. The arrangement would preclude those who support a two-state solution from negotiating one with the Palestinians if they don’t want the coalition to fall apart.
As such, “there is no reason for me to delude the Palestinians and open a diplomatic process that doesn’t have a coalition behind it… That would damage our credibility, which is important,” Lapid said.
The foreign minister’s meeting with Sheikh comes after two meetings between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in recent months.
Though the coalition has said it will maintain the current situation with the Palestinians, it is committed to trying to improve the Palestinians’ quality of life in areas such as increasing the number of permits to work in Israel, among others.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in that context last week: “I believe that business, the economy and jobs is the most sustainable way to bring stability.”
However, he said, “we have to be cognizant of the fact that there is a meaningful terror threat from the Palestinians to Israel that we have seen time and again, even in the past few weeks.
“I want to be very clear about that,” he added. “I won't do anything that can threaten Israel's security or weaken our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves. Ultimately, the Palestinians have a big choice to make whether want to go down the path of terror or peace and prosperity... We here are very positive about prosperity and people-to-people peace.”
Hamas condemned the meeting between Lapid and Sheikh late on Sunday, calling the "ridiculous" meetings between Israeli and Palestinian officials a "betrayal that must be halted immediately," Israeli media reported.
"PA's conversations [with Israel] reflect how far the authority has fallen," Hamas reportedly said in a statement. "Continuation of these ridiculous meetings is a betrayal and must be halted immediately."