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Defense minister sets tone for Israeli diplomacy

His invitation last week for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to come and met him in his home, earned Defense Minister Benny Gantz a much stronger spot in Israel’s political leadership.

Almost a week has passed since the Dec. 28 surprising meeting between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Still, the face-to-face session between these two men has refused to fall off Israel’s political and diplomatic agenda. While it poses a challenge to the coalition at large, the main people affected are Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and especially Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Just the fact that the two-and-a-half-hour meeting took place at Gantz’s home in Rosh Ha’ayin is evidence of the warm relationship he now has with Abbas. While the meeting was approved by Bennett, and Lapid knew about it, it nevertheless put them in an embarrassing situation. First and foremost, it positioned Gantz at the forefront of talks with the Palestinians, thereby transforming him into a key player in the international arena. The problem for Bennett and Lapid is that this comes at their expense.

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