Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has nixed Defense Minister Benny Gantz's participation in a unique Ramallah meeting Monday, with King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a report on Channel 13.
An Israeli official explained that the Prime Minister's Office learned from an Arab source of Gantz's attempts to arrange a meeting with Abbas King Abdullah.
Bennett will make a decision on the matter only once Gantz has presented the issue to him, the official said.
The three men were scheduled to discuss ways to prevent an outbreak of violence next month when both the festival of Passover and the Ramadan holiday overlap.
Bennett has in the past approved two Gantz meetings with Abbas. News of Bennett's refusal to allow Gantz to attend the Ramallah summit, come after Gantz’s sudden decision to visit India ahead of Bennett’s already-scheduled trip.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s sudden decision to visit India has led to speculation that the Blue and White Party is playing politics with the diplomatic ties between Israel and one of its powerful allies on the Asian continent.
Last Saturday, Bennett announced plans to make his first prime ministerial visit to India, heading out on April 2 to celebrate 30 years of ties between the two countries.
On Thursday, Gantz’s office published details of a Defense Ministry trip to India that would take place on Wednesday, just three days prior to Bennett’s arrival.
It’s the second time the two leaders have made back-to-back trips.
In February, Gantz landed in Bahrain less than two weeks before Bennett’s visit, the first-ever for an Israeli premier to that country, which only established ties with the Jewish state in 2020.
On Thursday, Kan News reporter Michael Shemesh chalked up both back-to-back visits to tensions between the two political leaders. He noted that Gantz’s trip had not been coordinated with Bennett’s office. Shemesh tweeted that in a well-working government, both leaders would have flown together.
Shemesh tweeted that instead, “Bennett and Gantz prefer to quarrel with each other through the media,” with the result being that “two planes will fly to India” in the same week, “one for Gantz, one for Bennett.”
“The prime minister was notified about the visit. It was a pre-planned visit to India for defense cooperation,” a Defense Ministry spokesperson said.
“The visit will include discussions with India’s minister of defense” and other senior officials to deepen the military cooperation between the two countries, according to the ministry.
Gantz “will be joined by the head of the Directorate for Defense R&D, head of the Policy and Political-Military Bureau in the Ministry of Defense, and representatives of Israeli defense industries.”
But sources confirmed for The Jerusalem Post that the visit was not coordinated with the Prime Minister’s Office.
India’s Ambassador to Israel Sanjeev Singla said his country was excited by both visits, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that had made face-to-face diplomacy difficult. New Delhi often hosts heavy diplomatic travel, he explained.
Singla said that diplomatic travel is hard to plan in light of the pandemic, adding that it is best to maximize the window that exists now in which such trips are possible.
Bennett met once with Indian President Narendra Modi – at the Glasgow Climate Conference in November.
“But this will be their first substantive bilateral meeting,” Singla said.