All violence on both sides should be condemned, Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas told MKs visiting the Mukata presidential compound Monday, though
he would not specifically speak out against the shooting of a nine-year-old girl
in Psagot this week.
“Two days ago a girl was shot or stabbed. That is
not the topic of discussion for today. Four Palestinians were killed in
Kalandiya, too,” Abbas stated.
“We should all condemn murder and
bloodshed of innocents.”
Only nine Labor MKs and Hatnua’s David Tsur of
the Knesset Caucus to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – led by MK Hilik Bar
(Labor) and sponsored by pro-peace NGO One Voice – traveled to Ramallah to meet
Abbas in a conference room featuring a large portrait of Yasser Arafat and a
mural of the Temple Mount.
Several Palestinian officials, including PLO
executive committee secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo and Palestinian Committee for
Interaction with Israeli Society chairman Muhammad Madani, attended the
The PA did not return the caucus’s gesture and hang an Israeli
flag in the Mukata even though a Palestinian flag was hung in the Knesset when
officials visited in July. At the time, Madani said that it would be “logical”
to hang an Israeli flag in the Mukata for the MKs’ visit.
Abbas thanked the MKs for visiting,
saying that meeting Israeli and Jewish leaders helps spread a message of
“In recent years, there were many attempts to return to the
negotiating table. We had very successful talks with the [former prime minister
Ehud] Olmert government,” Abbas stated. “We were very close to an agreement, but
Olmert’s government ended; this was a great opportunity, which we
“We didn’t succeed in reaching the negotiation table with the
new government, which is why we went to the UN,” Abbas said. “Some say we went
to the UN instead of talks, but that isn’t true. Now, thanks to [US President
Barack] Obama and [US Secretary of State John] Kerry, we found a joint base to
renew talks between us and Israel.”
The PA president did not get into
details about talks, saying that only Kerry is authorized to do so. He did not
refer to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or his speech Sunday demanding that
the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state.
emphasized that the nine-month time frame for talks that Kerry set is enough to
reach an agreement.
“We want normalcy between Israelis and Palestinians,”
Abbas said, but added points that he said are important in order for that to
First, the PA president said “the Israeli government must stop
settlers from attacking Palestinians.”
Second, Jews should not be allowed
to pray on the Temple Mount, he added.
Finally, Abbas said construction
in settlements “has a negative effect on efforts to reach an
Still, Abbas said the current round of talks is “very
serious,” and expressed hope to reach an agreement in the next five
“Like John Kerry said, this may be our last chance. That’s very
scary,” Abbas concluded.
Bar said he’s happy to hear Abbas’s optimism,
but that he does not agree that this is the last chance for
“People called for MKs not to come here because of [the shooting
in Psagot], but we said the attackers’ aim was for us not to be here and for
there not to be peace talks,” Bar explained.
“There are extremists on
both sides interested in continuing the conflict, but we want to promote
A majority of MKs want peace, because most Israelis want peace,
even though leaders can’t find a solution, Bar added.
candidate Isaac Herzog expressed hope that the current talks “will bloom and
“There is a direct linkage between peace and the wellbeing
of the people in Israel and the region,” Herzog stated.
“We believe in a
two-state solution and that we have a partner for talks.”
for Abbas and Netanyahu to work with all their might to reach a peace agreement,
and said he hopes they will soon “bring a historic revolution to the Middle