MKs and Palestinian sources gave conflicting versions of whether or not Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Monday night’s shooting of a family on the way to a Seder in Hebron, in a meeting with MKs in Ramallah Wednesday.
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Ruaineh said the PA president opposed violence but did not speak out against the attack.
“We are against violence and a return to violence,” Abu Ruaineh quoted him as saying, adding the Abbas “is committed to a total condemnation of violence from any party.”
However, Knesset Caucus to Solve the Israel-Arab Conflict chairman Hilik Bar (Labor), who led the five-lawmaker delegation, emphasized Abbas specifically condemned the attack, in which a terrorist killed Baruch Mizrachi, and that “it didn’t take much convincing.”
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) backed up Bar’s version, saying Abbas “said this specifically, he emphasized his disgust from bloodshed and terrorism. He said he’s willing to participate in the investigation of the attack and to bring those accountable to justice.”
The delegation included only opposition MKs from Labor and Meretz. The two coalition MKs who were supposed to join – Elazar Stern and David Tsur of Hatnua – canceled for personal, not political, reasons.
Bar recounted that Abbas did not sound very optimistic about continued talks and said if they work out, there will be two states, and if not, the Palestinians will “hand over the keys to the Mukataa” and become part of Israel.
“We need to work for there to be two states; we can’t allow something else,” Bar said in response.
The Labor MK also said Abbas was willing to make concessions by calling for a mutually agreed-upon solution for Palestinian refugees and asked what the current government is willing to concede.
As for the government’s most recent concession, Bar spoke out against releasing terrorists from prison, specifically those with Israeli citizenship.
Bar also said the group was critical of the Palestinians applying to join international organizations so quickly, saying that made it more difficult for Israel to trust them.
Horowitz said “there is a Palestinian partner in Ramallah.”
“Abbas is totally committed to negotiations on all issues. This is a supreme interest of Israel, to take advantage of this and reach an agreement.”
Horowitz called the terror attack a reminder of the results of conflict, saying Israel and the PA cannot enter another round of violence and bloodshed.
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said she went into the meeting with doubts and concerns, but found that Abbas is interested in another nine months of talks, which Abu Ruaineh confirmed.
“We don’t want talks for the sake of talks, and if their only purpose is to leave the rightwing government intact, we don’t need them,” Zandberg wrote on Facebook. “We should focus on replacing the government and establishing a better Israeli partner.”
Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ofir Akunis (Likud Beytenu) said it’s “unfortunate that while the victim of the terror attack is being buried in Jerusalem, MKs from Labor and Meretz found time to once again grovel to Abbas in Ramallah.”
According to Akunis, the Left’s repeated pilgrimages to “the man responsible for the breakdown in negotiations” is an embarrassment and that at this time, it would be better for the opposition to show responsibility.
On Tuesday night, Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman (Bayit Yehudi) called for the delegation to be canceled, saying it is unfathomable for a group of MKs to visit the PA when it “acts against Israel in the world and shelters murderers.”
Reaching out to the PA “sends a message of weakness,” he said.
Bar called the critics “right-wing extremists” who should “stop taking [advantage of] the bereaved families to promote narrow interests. It’s shameful and embarrassing.”
“I’m not going to be lectured by the extreme Right, which is sitting and getting budgets from a government that promotes a two-state solution but does everything to sabotage talks.”
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.