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Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the home of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday for his first official meeting in Israel since 2010.

Why it matters: This was the second meeting between Abbas and Gantz in four months, and is part of a broader effort by Israel's new government and the Palestinian Authority to reset relations.

Flashback: During former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year tenure, there was almost no contact between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

  • Abbas met with Netanyahu and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem in 2010. He also greeted Netanyahu briefly at the funeral of former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres in 2016.
  • That was the last time Abbas had set foot in Israel prior to Tuesday's meeting at Gantz's home in the town of Rosh Haayin.

Driving the news: The meeting lasted two and a half hours and focused mainly on security coordination and economic cooperation, senior Israeli officials say.

  • Gantz presented Abbas with a series of measures Israel will take to boost the sputtering Palestinian economy, including a $30 million loan to the Palestinian Authority.
  • One of the main issues Abbas raised was the recent attacks by Jewish settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. Abbas warned Gantz that they could lead to violent reprisals from Palestinians and wider escalation in the West Bank, Israeli and Palestinian officials say.
  • Gantz and Abbas agreed to strengthen security coordination and increase security measures against extremist groups on both sides who are planning attacks.
  • Abbas told Gantz he was satisfied with his meeting last week with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, but said the U.S. isn’t giving the Palestinian Authority enough financial support

Between the lines: The Israeli government is concerned that the economic and political turmoil in the West Bank and Gaza Strip could lead to a violent escalation on the ground. It's working to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, which faces a crisis of legitimacy after again postponing elections last spring.

  • Netanyahu, by contrast, was accused of seeking to weaken the Palestinian Authority and effectively strengthen its more extremist political rival, Hamas, in order to reduce the pressure to hold peace talks.
  • In Tuesday's meeting, Abbas told Gantz he understands that the current Israeli government — an unwieldy coalition of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties — won't be able politically to move toward peace talks. But he stressed that the sides should continue to meet and signal there is an alternative political horizon to that of Hamas.

What they're saying: “The meeting was the last chance before the explosion and before finding ourselves at a dead end. It’s a serious and bold attempt to [find] a political path," tweeted Palestinian Minister for Civilian Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh, who attended the meeting.

  • Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the meeting was important for Israel’s security and its international standing.
  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett approved Gantz's meeting but didn't comment on it. He has said he won't meet with Abbas.
  • Now opposition leader, Netanyahu and his Likud party criticized the meeting and attacked Gantz. On the Palestinian side, Hamas criticized the meeting and attacked Abbas.
  • State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. was "very pleased" by the meeting and hoped the "confidence-building measures discussed will accelerate momentum to further advance freedom, security, and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike in 2022."

Go deeper

Jan 12, 2022 - World

Israel PM gambles on no lockdown strategy as cases climb

Naftali Bennett. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is facing growing criticism as Israel continues to set new records for daily COVID cases, but he's decided to try to ride out the fifth wave without new lockdowns.

Why it matters: Bennett has taken a big bet that the Israeli health system will be able to withstand the Omicron wave.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker