In an unusual gesture, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Tuesday sent separate condolence letters to Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is sitting the shiva mourning period for his
father in Jerusalem.
Direct communication between Palestinian and Israeli
leaders has been scant since Netanyahu took office in March
Netanyahu last met with Abbas in September 2010. During his
premiership he has never met face-to-face with Fayyad. The two men were supposed
to meet last month, however Fayyad canceled at the last moment.
Tuesday, Abbas and Fayyad were among the first governmental leaders to tell
Netanyahu that they were sorry for his loss. The text of their letters was not
released to the media.
Netanyahu’s father Benzion, a renowned historian,
died early Monday morning at age 102. He was buried later that day.
prime minister has canceled all his diplomatic appointments and is observing
shiva, the traditional seven-day mourning period, in his father’s
Friends, relatives and diplomatic dignitaries visited him there to
pay their respects.
Among them were visiting Japanese Foreign Minister
Koichiro Gemba, US Senator John Kerry and Australian Financial Services Minister
Survivors from the 1976 Entebbe raid in which Netanyahu’s
brother Yonatan lost his life came to the homes, as did those who served with
the prime minister in the army.
From the United States, Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed his sorrow for Netanyahu’s loss.
The two men have been friends since they worked together at Boston Consulting
Group in the 1970s.
“I extend my sincere condolences to the family of
Benzion Netanyahu. This is a loss for all of Israel and for all who care about
Israel,” Romney said in a Twitter message.
Netanyahu is to end shiva on
Sunday and will attend the weekly cabinet meeting.
Among the diplomatic
issues that were delayed by his father’s death was a letter that he was suppose
to deliver to Abbas, in response to a document the Palestinian leader sent to
him last month outlining his terms to hold direct negotiations.
Palestinians have insisted that they will not speak with Netanyahu until he
freezes West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east
Israel in turn has insisted that talks should be held without
On Monday night, Abbas said that he considered Netanyahu
to be his peace partner.
Speaking during a visit to Tunisia, Abbas said:
“I choose you, Netanyahu, because you are our partner for peace.With whom will I
make peace? You are the prime minister and I have to deal with you. But you have
to choose between settlements and peace.”
Abbas said he was referring to
remarks by Netanyahu to the effect that there is no partner on the Palestinian
side in light of the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
that Netanyahu had said that Abbas must choose between peace with Israel and
peace with Hamas, the PA president added: “We choose both. Hamas is part
of our people and they were elected and have a majority in the Palestinian
Legislative Council and no one can deny this.”
Abbas said he did not care
what Netanyahu thought about the reconciliation between Fatah and
“What is important is our interest – that the Palestinian land and
people be united,” he said.