Lapid won’t rule out meeting with PA’s Abbas, but says it’s not on the agenda

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Tuesday that while he would not rule out the possibility of a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, there were currently no immediate plans for talks to take place.

“I do not have meetings for the sake of meetings unless they have a positive result for Israel. At the moment it is not on the agenda, but I do not rule it out,” Lapid said in a briefing with reporters, according to the Walla news site.

The premier, making the comments during a trip to Paris, said that he had discussed the Palestinian issue with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“The French have legitimate questions and there are disagreements about what should be done about the Palestinian issue, but they have an understanding of what the government can and cannot do,” Lapid said, according to the Ynet news site.

In public comments ahead of the meeting with Lapid, Macron spoke of the importance of reaching an agreement that recognizes the “legitimate aspirations” of the Palestinians.

The Ynet report said Macron raised the matter of settlement construction with Lapid during the meeting.

Lapid said he told his French counterpart that while existing settlements would be allowed to expand, there would be no new settlements.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, March 27, 2022, in Ramallah. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Lapid took over as premier last week as part of a power-sharing agreement with former prime minister Naftali Bennett that was triggered when the 24th Knesset voted to disband itself, calling elections for November 1.

While serving as foreign minister, Lapid met with senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh on at least two occasions.

Al-Sheikh is a close adviser to Abbas and the official responsible for managing Ramallah’s ties with Jerusalem. He has been rising in the ranks of the Palestinian Authority in recent months, sparking discussion over whether he might succeed the octogenarian Abbas.

However, Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Abbas twice in recent months, including in Gantz’s residence in Rosh Ha’ayin. Both meetings were followed by Israeli announcements fulfilling some Palestinian requests.

Bennett is opposed to renewed peace negotiations with the Palestinians and refused to meet with Abbas.

Earlier this year, in comments regarding his then-expected rotation into the premiership in August 2023, Lapid stressed that he would not dramatically alter Bennett’s policy toward Ramallah.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Prime Minister Yair Lapid speak at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 5, 2022 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Under the previous government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, senior Israeli and Palestinians officials rarely met.

‘Violence at the Western Wall’

While in Paris, Lapid was also asked about the incident at the Western Wall last week in which ultra-Orthodox extremists interrupted bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies at the site’s egalitarian plaza.

“The fact that there is violence at the Western Wall against people who want to pray according to their faith, cannot continue,” the prime minister said, according to Walla.

“Israel is the only country in the world where there is no religious freedom for Jews,” he claimed.

An ultra-Orthodox youth wipes his nose with a page torn from a siddur at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall on June 30, 2022. (Screen capture: Masorti movement on Twitter)

Last week, ultra-Orthodox extremists, most of them children or teenagers, disrupted three bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies at the egalitarian plaza of the Western Wall, shouting, calling the worshipers “Nazis,” “Christians” and “animals,” blowing whistles and ripping up prayer books.

US special envoy on antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt, visiting Israel, where she met with Lapid, said Tuesday she was “deeply disturbed” by the incident.

Aaron Boxerman and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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