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Gestures toward Palestinians leave Bennett in bind

With his rightwing base on the one side, the Biden administration and his coalition partners on the other, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place on bettering the lives of Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is caught between a rock and a hard place. He promised US President Joe Biden at their Aug. 27 White House meeting to take steps to improve the lives and economic opportunities of Palestinians. But his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu is constantly breathing down his neck, seeking every opportunity to portray him as a leftist. He is hemmed in by Biden and the left-leaning partners in his governing coalition — the Labor, Meretz and Ra’am parties — and on the other side by Netanyahu, his followers and the pledges he himself made in the past as a far-right politician.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz came to the rescue Aug. 29. Just hours after Bennett’s return from Washington, Gantz met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. This first top-level meeting between the sides in over a decade reflected the policy Bennett had just presented at the White House: Goodwill gestures toward the Palestinians and economic moves to bolster the Palestinian Authority and distinguish it from the hard-line Hamas rulers in Gaza.

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