In what qualifies by now as a confidence-building measure, Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke Tuesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, sending him best wishes for the end-of-Ramadan Id al-Fitr holiday. The two discussed economic and security coordination between the PA and Israel. In the past, Barak met regularly with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, but recently there has been a dearth of top-level meetings between delegates from the two sides. So the Barak-Abbas discussion yesterday symbolized an effort undertaken by Israel's defense establishment to preserve cooperation between the sides and maintain defense-economic cooperation in a period of comatose diplomatic talks, and continuing tensions between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
The PA, it bears mentioning, consistently attempts to impair Israel's international standing, while Israel publicly criticizes the Palestinians for condoning anti-Israel incitement on official PA media outlets. Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoid direct discussions, using intermediaries Yitzhak Molho and Saeb Erekat to deliver messages to each other, and Abbas and Netanyahu rarely miss opportunities to upbraid each other in public. At the same time, though, second-tier Israeli and PA officials in defense and economic posts enjoy excellent relations. These ties feature almost daily meetings, with top Israeli security officials frequently visiting Ramallah, while their Palestinian counterparts are not infrequently found in Tel Aviv offices. These visits bypass the media spotlight in the PA and Israel.
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