Abbas speaks with Israeli minister Barlev in 4th recent high-level contact

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to send his holiday greetings for the Eid al-Adha holiday, both politicians’ offices said.

“I hope and believe that the positive conversation will lead to the opening of lines of communication between me and my PA counterparts, advancing peace and security for both peoples,” Barlev said in a tweet.

Abbas’s office left out Barlev’s effusive description of the conversation, saying merely that the Israeli minister had spoken with Abbas due to the holiday. Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest times on the Muslim calendar, began on Monday evening.

The phone call is the fourth publicly shared by the Palestinian Authority leader and a senior Israeli official in the last two weeks. Such high-level conversations have been rare in recent years.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last spoke with Abbas in 2017. During the intervening years, relations ground to a halt, and there were few public contacts between the two sides’ senior politicians. The exception was occasional phone calls between Abbas and then-president Reuven Rivlin.

But the new government’s left-wing and centrist ministers have shown an interest in shoring up the beleaguered Palestinian Authority.

“The most desirable change in my view is to strengthen the Palestinian Authority as much as possible, and not to let Hamas be the one that sets the agenda, not in the area of the Gaza Strip nor in Gaza itself,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in the aftermath of the recent escalation between Israel and Hamas.

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, July 22, 2021 (courtesy)

Gantz spoke with Abbas earlier this week, becoming the first cabinet minister to publicly speak to the PA president since 2017. His colleague Regional Cooperation Minister Essawi Freij, a member of the left-wing Meretz party, has held several meetings with Palestinian officials.

With the peace process with Israel on life support, Palestinians increasingly see Ramallah’s leadership as weak, corrupt, and unable to bring about an end to Israeli military rule.

At the same time, human rights groups have alleged that the PA is becoming increasingly authoritarian toward its own people. In recent months, the crackdown has tightened, with PA security forces allegedly beating a dissident to death in custody, sparking widespread outrage.

Newly inaugurated President Isaac Herzog has also spoken twice with Abbas during his two weeks in office.

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