MK Zouheir Bahloul alongside former PA minister Ashraf al-Ajami..
(photo credit: OFFICE OF MK ZOUHEIR BAHLOUL)
Ashraf al-Ajami, the former Palestinian Authority's minister for Prisoners Affairs, said on Saturday that the terror organization currently ruling in the Gaza Strip was "willing to go back to the 1967 borders."
Al-Ajami made this statement as a guest and a speaker at a cultural event held in the city of Acre and hosted by the Keshet NGO, an Arab-Jewish nonprofit organization he helped found.
"I'm speaking here on behalf of the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization]- the exclusive representative of the Palestinian People," al-Ajami opened by saying, and went on to add that the Palestinian Authority was "willing [to accept] a demilitarized and unarmed state, a normalization of the relations and an end to the conflict."
Elaborating on the Palestinians' willingness to collaborate with Israel for the joint purpose of reaching a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, al-Ajami also said that the diplomatic inclination for a dialogue was not limited to the Palestinian Authority, and also extended to Hamas. "Hamas, too, is willing to go back to the '67 borders. We'll reach an agreement for two states, the Palestinians will go into elections, Fatah as well as Hamas, and there will be one rule."
During the discussion that ensued at the event, al-Ajami was asked how he felt confident in making such a statement about the PA's willingness to negotiate with Israel (and thereby acknowledge its right to exist) despite the numerous recent examples that have surfaced over the past few years of Palestinian textbooks, authorized and supervised by the Palestinian Authority, inciting children against the State of Israel and its civilians.
Al-Ajami adamantly denied the existence of such textbooks. "Everything they say in the Israeli media about the Palestinian textbooks is an utter lie. The Palestinian Authority changed the textbooks in 2001, and since then they've been under tight supervision," he said.
MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union), who was the main host of the event, expressed his content over al-Ajami's participation in the event, right alongside coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud). "I used the opportunity that came my way as a founder of this NGO to promote, even if just a little, the conversation about coexistence and peace. I'm glad that MK Bitan managed to rise above his bitter differences in opinion [with the Palestinians] and was willing to listen to a voice coming from the Palestinian Authority.''
Al-Ajami's encouraging words come at an uneasy period for Israelis as well as the Palestinians, with officials on both sides struggling to push for their people's agendas in light of the recent change of administration in the White House.
On February 16, a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened with US President Donald Trump
and discussed the future of the two-state solution, PA President Mahmoud Abbas released the following statement on the subject, speaking in the same vein as al-Ajami had earlier on Saturday: "[We affirm our] continuing commitment to the two-state option... living in peace and security next to the State of Israel on the June 1967 borders."
Official Hamas spokespeople have yet to issue any statements in recent months supporting al-Ajami's claim, but were quick to note upon the election of new Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar that "Hamas does not change with the change of its leader."