Palestinian president hosts Israeli minister in West Bank


Ramallah: The Palestinian president hosted an Israeli cabinet minister for a meeting late on Sunday, a new sign of a gradual improvement in relations between the two sides.

Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz became the second top official to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since the new Israeli government took office in June.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also met Abbas at his West Bank headquarters in August.

The new Israeli government consists of eight parties spread across the political spectrum of Israel, from far-right hardliners who support a two-state solution to parties that oppose a Palestinian state.

Horowitz, who was joined by other members of his Meretz party, including Arab cabinet minister Esawi Fries, leads the majority faction in the coalition.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett comes from a small, fanatical religious group, and has denied the establishment of a Palestinian state under his watch.

But he has called for reducing friction, mainly by taking steps to boost the Palestinian economy.

According to the state-run Wafa news agency, Abbas “emphasized the importance of ending Israeli occupation and achieving a just and comprehensive peace.”

Abbas’s government seeks the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Horowitz posted a photo of himself and Abbas on Twitter.

“We have a shared mission: to preserve the hope of peace based on a two-state solution,” he said.

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