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Despite growing tensions, Netanyahu and Abbas maintain secret channel

Palestinian official says covert contact aims to de-escalate tensions in the territories

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Regional Cooperation, Tzachi Hanegbi, attend the weekly Cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Dec. 29, 2019. (Photo: Marc Israel Sellem)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have reportedly been holding secret talks for almost two months in an attempt to de-escalate tensions.

The secret backchannel contact was approved by Netanyahu, who appointed National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi to lead the talks.

Hanegbi has reportedly had at least one in-person meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee Secretary-General Hussein al-Sheikh. The two have also spoken several times by phone.

Both officials are close confidants of their respective bosses.

An Israeli official said the backchannel does not address final status issues, but focuses on preserving lines of communication in order to de-escalate tensions.

The report also stated that U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration helped facilitate the creation of the backchannel.

While Hanegbi confirmed that talks with the Palestinians have taken place, al-Sheikh has not responded to requests for comment.

Last month, the PA announced it was ending security cooperation with Israel, in response to a raid on Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists in Jenin by Israel Defense Forces.

At the time, the U.S. criticized the announcement.

The backchannel was apparently used to prevent a showdown over Israeli settlements between the two groups at the United Nations Security Council meeting. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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