Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) during the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016. Photo/Amos Ben Gershom/REUTERS
TEL AVIV – A secret communications channel that has been operating for more than a month between the offices of Israeli Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been reported by Israel’s Walla news website.
This is the first time direct contact has come to light between the two leaders since the formation of Israel’s latest coalition government.
According to Walla, US President Joe Biden’s administration is aware of the secret channel, but it is unclear whether all party leaders in the coalition know of its existence, or what the two sides have discussed.
In the weeks before Israel’s new government was sworn in, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein Al-Sheikh, apparently sent a message to Netanyahu’s office via Washington, declaring the Palestinian Authority (PA) was ready to work with the new right-wing government.
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Al-Sheikh, who is also general secretary of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), returned to convey a message after the government was sworn in, and confirmed the Palestinian Authority’s desire to hold talks.
Netanyahu’s office responded positively, appointing Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi to handle the Palestinian dossier.
He is authorized to hold talks to try to prevent an escalation in tensions.
Hanegbi and Al-Sheikh have spoken several times on the phone and have also met. The last meeting between them happened a few days ago.
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