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Bennett says he won’t meet with Abbas after PA chief brought Israel before ICC

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NEW YORK — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Friday that he would not meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, given Abbas’s decision to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes.

“As someone who comes from the business world, when someone sues me, I’m not really that nice to him,” Bennett said during an off-the-record Zoom call with leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, according to one of the participants who spoke to The Times of Israel afterward.

In March, the ICC’s chief prosecutor announced that she was opening an investigation into actions committed by Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem since June 13, 2014. It was Abbas’s request to The Hague that led to the opening of the probe.

Bennett was asked during the Friday call about the recent meeting between Abbas and Defense Minister Benny Gantz and its significance in terms of the new government’s policy vis a vis the Palestinians.

The Israeli premier reiterated his belief that no political breakthrough will be possible in the near future. He highlighted what he views as a “dichotomy where either you go all at it with a Palestinian state or you do nothing,” according to another participant on the call who added that Bennett maintained that there was a middle ground.

Bennett said that even if the conflict cannot be solved, as he currently believes, there are steps that can be taken to “reduce the scope of friction” with the Palestinians, the participants quoted him as having said.

While the prime minister did not get into specifics, he said the steps would have to deal with the economy, arguing that allowing Palestinians to make a good living and live in dignity would go a long way.

His government has already approved thousands of work permits for Palestinians in Israel, is slated to approve hundreds of building permits for Palestinians in Area C — where such approvals have been virtually non-existent in recent years — and has announced plans to provide a NIS 500 million advance to the PA as Ramallah undergoes an intensifying financial crisis.

However, Bennett clarified that he did not want to “create any illusions” that a political breakthrough is imminent, arguing that this could cause “negative ramifications,” participants on the call quoted him as having said.

The premier also pointed to the PA’s continued payment of monthly stipends to security prisoners, including ones who have killed Israelis, along with their families and the families of those who were killed carrying out attacks against Israelis.

The PA has told the US it is working to reform the welfare system, according to US........

© The Times of Israel

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