Israel’s new Prime Minister Yair Lapid and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held a phone conversation Friday morning, which is believed to be the first such contact between Israeli and Palestinian leaders for five years.
A short statement from Lapid’s office said the two men “spoke about the continuation of cooperation and the need to ensure quiet and calm.”
Abbas had congratulated Lapid on becoming Prime Minister, the statement said, while Lapid passed along his best wishes to the Palestinian leader ahead of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday which begins Friday.
The Palestinian news agency Wafa also reported the phone conversation, adding that President Abbas had expressed his wish that “peace and stability would prevail in the region as soon as possible.”
Lapid’s predecessor, right-winger Naftali Bennett, chose not to speak with Abbas during his 12-month premiership, while long-time leader Benjamin Netanyahu oversaw a degradation of Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Authority, and it is reported he last spoke to the Palestinian leader in 2017.
Underscoring the current Israeli government’s changed approach, Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited Abbas at his Ramallah office Thursday evening.
During the meeting, the Palestinian leader “stressed the importance of creating a political horizon [and] commitment to the signed agreements,” Wafa reported, referring to a series of agreements signed between the two sides in the 1990s.
A statement from Gantz’s office said the meeting had discussed “security and civilian coordination ahead of the visit of US President Biden to Israel.”
As well as Israel, Biden is also set to visit the West Bank next week where he will meet with Abbas – in the first meeting between the Palestinian leader and a US President since 2017. The White House hopes the meeting will help draw a line under the significant breakdown in US-Palestinian relations seen under the Trump administration.
In a separate development earlier this week, Abbas traveled to Algeria where he met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, also for the first time in several years.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of Algeria’s independence, Algeria’s state news agency reported.
Relations between Abbas’s Fatah party, the largest Palestinian faction, and Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza, have been strained for many years. In June 2007, the two groups were in open conflict with each other, in violence that saw the end of Palestinian Authority control in Gaza.