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Isaac Herzog (L), then the leader of the opposition, meets with Mahmoud Abbas in 2015. Photo: Abbas MomaniI/AFP via Getty

Relations between the new Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have shifted substantially in recent weeks, with Israeli officials going so far as to call it “a renaissance."

Why it matters: During Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year tenure as prime minister, relations deteriorated to the point where there was almost no contact other than security coordination.

State of play: In the last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has held four phone calls with senior Israeli officials — two with President Isaac Herzog, one with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and one with Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev.

  • Abbas had last spoken to an Israeli minister in July 2017, when Netanyahu called him over a crisis at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
  • Meetings took place Wednesday between the Palestinian and Israeli ministers of health and environmental protection, the first such meetings in several years.

Driving the news: The Israeli government also announced Wednesday that it had agreed to a request by the Palestinian Authority to issue 15,000 new permits for Palestinians to work in Israel.

Between the lines: One reason for the shift is the participation of left-wing parties in the coalition. Minister for Regional Cooperation Issawi Frej, a Palestinian Israeli, is the driving force behind it.

  • Bennett, a right-wing hardliner, hasn't spoken to Abbas himself, but he also hasn't objected to the renewal of dialogue.
  • He supports cooperation with the PA on economic and civilian issues, but he opposes any new political negotiations.

What they're saying:

  • “The political echelon signals it is much more interested in moving things forward with the Palestinians, and after many years, talking to Abbas is legitimate again," an Israeli official who deals with Israeli-Palestinian relations told me.
  • Palestinian Civilian Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said in an interview with The Media Line last week that he hopes the new Israeli government will change the atmosphere and restore confidence between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
  • “My personal opinion is that going forward, it could not be worse than the period of Netanyahu’s rule in Israel," he said.

What’s next: With the PA in a deep economic crisis, the governments are negotiating a package of confidence-building measures that will improve the atmosphere and help the Palestinian economy, Israeli officials say.

  • Yes, but: There will be a big test on Aug. 1. Israel is expected to deduct $30 million from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians over the stipends paid by the PA to Palestinian prisoners convicted of terror attacks against Israelis.
    • The government is obligated to do so by Israeli law, and the step could derail the progress made in recent weeks.

Go deeper

U.S. wants Israel to convince Sudan's generals to end coup

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty

The Biden administration has asked the Israeli government to use its close relations with Sudan’s coup leader and de facto president, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to urge the military to restore the civilian government.

Why it matters: Burhan has been central to the Israel-Sudan normalization process over the last two years. He and other Sudanese generals have been coordinating with contacts in the Israeli national security council and Mossad intelligence agency.

Nov 3, 2021 - World

U.S. blacklists Israeli firm NSO after Pegasus spyware scandal

President Biden with PM Bennett. Photo: Nicholas KammAFP via Getty

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday added Israeli cyber intelligence companies NSO and Candiru to its black list of companies engaging in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.

Why it matters: This is the first time the U.S. government has targeted Israeli cyber companies, which receive their export licenses from the Israeli Ministry of Defense. The designations will limit the activities of the companies in the United States.

U.S. increases pressure on Iran ahead of new nuclear talks

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Biden administration is slowly ratcheting up its diplomatic pressure on Iran ahead of a potential resumption of the nuclear talks.

Why it matters: After months of contemplating how to respond to Iran's foot-dragging, with talks now frozen since June, the Biden administration in recent days started taking steps that some of its European allies, Israel and the Gulf states were waiting for.