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Israel's Gantz calls Abbas to discuss 'trust-building' as PA faces popular anger

The call marked the first high-ranking contact between Israeli and Palestinian officials since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government was sworn in last month
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (AFP)

Israel's Minister of Defence Benny Gantz called Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday evening, days after a senior US official warned Israel of the "collapse" of the PA.

The call was the first high-ranking contact between Israeli and Palestinian officials since the government of far-right Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was sworn in in June. 

Gantz wrote on Twitter that he had sent good wishes to Abbas on the occasion of the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, adding that they had discussed the need to build trust between the two governments.

"We discussed the need to advance trust-building steps between Israel and the PA, which will benefit the economy and security of the entire region," Gantz wrote.

Abbas also received a call from Israeli President Isaac Herzog on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, official PA news agency Wafa reported.

Though former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke to Abbas once a month during his seven-year tenure in office, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's line of communication with the Palestinian side was cold, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. On 11 July, Abbas reportedly called Herzog to congratulate him on his swearing-in as president.

The thawing of communication between Israel and the PA comes shortly after a visit by Hady Amr, the US envoy for Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

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Amr reportedly warned Israeli officials that the PA was facing a political and economic crisis, and called on Tel Aviv to strengthen Ramallah's government.

Amr said during a visit to Israel and Palestine that he had "never seen the Palestinian Authority in a worse situation" - as the occupied West Bank-based governing body has faced a wave of popular anger in the wake of the death of prominent critic Nizar Banat in PA police custody.

Amr described the PA as "a dry forest waiting to catch fire", adding that the PA lacks legitimacy, which could lead to a dangerous and unstable situation.

"If the authority does not have the money to pay salaries, it could lead to further deterioration and eventually to a collapse," he said.

The PA was established in the wake of the 1993 Oslo Accords and initially intended to be an interim governing body until the establishment of a fully-fledged Palestinian state.

But with a two-state solution never materialising, the PA - which exerts only limited control over around 40 percent of the West Bank, known as Areas A and B - has long been accused by many Palestinians of being an extension of the Israeli occupation, particularly with its policy of security coordination with Israel.

Abbas, meanwhile, has been in power since 2005. Though his term as president officially ended in 2009, the PA has not held presidential elections in 16 years.

While legislative elections and a presidential vote were initially scheduled for 22 May and 31 July respectively, they were postponed in April.