Israel's defence minister Benny Gantz has held talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. (AP)

Israeli PM downplays talks with Abbas

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has played down any notion of a move towards renewed peace negotiations with the Palestinians after the highest-level Israeli-Palestinian meeting in years.

Hours after Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met, the main Israeli media outlets quoted “a source close to the prime minister” as saying: “There is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians, nor will there be one.”

The session, which was not announced in advance, covered only “routine issues”, according to the source. Hussein Al Sheikh, a member of Abbas’ Fatah Central Committee, said the talks included “all aspects” of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Gantz, who heads a centrist party, and Abbas convened two days after Bennett, a far-right politician who opposes Palestinian statehood, met in Washington with US President Joe Biden, who backs the idea.

A White House statement said Biden reiterated to Bennett his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “underscored the importance of steps to improve the lives of Palestinians”.

Bennett did not mention Palestinians in public remarks at the White House that focused largely on arch-enemy Iran’s nuclear program.

Gantz has called in the past for resumption of a peace process with the Palestinians, who aspire to a state of their own in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel captured those territories in the 1967 Middle East war.

Read the article in The West Australian and The Canberra Times. (AAP).