Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and a delegation of former members of Knesset, some of who served as ministers, met at the Mukata, the PA headquarters in Ramallah, on Tuesday evening.
The Palestinian Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society (PCIIS), a Palestinian government body tasked with outreach to Israel, organized the meeting.
The delegation of MKs included former interior minister Ofir Pines, former economy minister Shimon Shetreet, Amram Mitzna, Haim Oron, David Zucker and Anat Maor.
“The former MKs and President Abbas participated in a dialogue for an hour, discussing peace initiatives including the Arab Peace Initiative,” Ziad Darwish, a member of the PCIIS and a cousin of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
The meeting between the former MKs and Abbas comes at a time when there are few contacts between the Israeli and Palestinian governments.
“President Abbas told the MKs that his hands are always extended for peace and that he is prepared to meet with [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Darwish said.
For his part, Netanyahu has said that he is prepared to meet with Abbas for bilateral talks without preconditions.
Mitzna, who served both as Labor chairman and mayor of Haifa, told the Post that the meeting was very positive.
“This important meeting went very well,” Mitzna said. “We discussed ways to bring Israel to the negotiating table.”
In addition, Mitzna said the meeting strengthened his belief that Abbas is a partner for peace.
“I believed previously that Abbas is a partner for peace, but after meeting him yesterday I believe even more that he is a partner for peace,” he said, adding, “I plan to speak with Israelis and do what I can to tell them about the way the Palestinians think.”
Many members of the Israeli government have said that Abbas is not a partner for peace, holding that he allows for incitement in the Palestinian press and does not explicitly condemn violent attacks against Israelis.
Darwish said Tuesday’s meeting was important because of the stature of the MKs in Israeli society: “It is true that they are no longer serving in government, but they, with their influence and status, have the ability to convey the Palestinian position on the peace process to Israel society.”
Abbas has met a number of other Israeli groups in the past year and plans to meet with more groups in the coming year including a group of rabbis at the end of December.