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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

Sep 22, 2021 - World

Scoop: Russia seeks trilateral talks with U.S. and Israel on Syria

Secretaries Blinken (left) and Lavrov. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry\TASS via Getty

Russia has asked Israel to encourage the U.S. to agree to hold high-level trilateral talks on Syria, two senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israel's main focus in Syria is getting Iran out, and that would likely only be possible through U.S.-Russian cooperation. 

Instagram pauses development of platform for kids

Photo: Lorenzo Di Cola/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Instagram announced Monday that it is pausing its plans to develop a version of its platform for children under 13.

Why it matters: Facebook has received backlash since the Wall Street Journal published a report that showed the company knew its Instagram app is harmful for teenagers.

Stock buybacks boom as corporate cash piles grow

The Delta variant is keeping more companies cautious about how to invest the mountains of cash they have at their disposal. That hesitancy has led, in part, to corporate spending on stock buybacks outpacing capital expenditures this year. 

Why it matters: Companies hoarded cash and raised prices over the past year — leaving them with a lot of money and decisions about what to do with it.