Abbas invites all Israeli ministers to talk with him after Meretz visit

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas invited all Israeli ministers to visit Ramallah and talk with him, after he hosted a delegation from the Meretz party on Sunday night.

“We don’t have to agree with one another, we just have to talk,” Abbas told the Meretz delegation. It included party head and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej and Meretz faction head MK Michal Rozin.

Meretz politicians have visited Abbas in the past when they were in the opposition, but this is the first time they have done so as members of the government.

Former Prime Minister and current leader of the Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu, attacked Horowitz for meeting with Abbas, noting that he had left the COVID-19 cabinet meeting in order to do so.

Likud faction head, MK Yariv Levin, said that the meeting showed that Horowitz cared more about meeting “with the terrorist financier Abu Mazen, than the health of Israeli citizens.”

Prior to meeting with the Meretz delegation, Abbas called the family of Israa Khuzaimia, who was a killed by Israeli police after she attempted to stab an officer in Jerusalem’s Old City last week.

Abbas offered his condolences to Khuzaimia’s family, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA. The agency described Khuzaimia as a mother of four from the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya, south of Jenin.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has also visited Abbas, but the question of whether to speak with the Palestinian leader is a divisive one within the government.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Yamina party and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party have no interest in speaking with Abbas.

According to Barak Ravid of Hebrew web site Walla, Abbas specifically mentioned his interest in speaking with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.

A startled Shaked immediately took to Twitter to reject the offer.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is seen speaking at the Knesset, on July 5, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

“It won’t happen,” she flatly wrote.

“I won’t meet a Holocaust denier who is suing Israel soldiers at The Hague and paying murderers of Jews,” Shaked tweeted.

“Good night,” she added.

In a marked contrast to Shaked, the Meretz delegation in Ramallah spoke about the importance of dialogue and Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. They pledged their support for a two-state resolution to the conflict, even though the peace process has been frozen since 2014.

“We arrived today to rebuild a direct and permanent channel [of communication], and to give a ‘booster’ to collaboration,” Horowitz said.

Abbas told the delegation, “We must create confidence-building measures that will prove that we intend to make peace and allow me to preserve the hope of the Palestinian people.”

“If we lose hope, we will lose the future,” Abbas added.

Horowitz told Abbas that “within the government Meretz is tasked with keeping the two-state solution alive. We will not let it disappear, and we will not sabotage the chances of achieving it in the future, because there is no other solution.”

He spoke against unilateral Israeli activity that would harm any future plans for two states such as settlement and outpost construction as well as violence against Palestinians by Jewish extremists.

Frej told Abbas, “you are our partner”  in advancing two-states. Cooperation between ministries and governments is essential to improve the current reality, he added. 

Rozin added that her party would “do everything necessary” to build the foundations for peace.