Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg (L) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas (R), March 10th, 2019.
(photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Forging a peace agreement with the Palestinians is Israel's "supreme interest," Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg said as she met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday.
"We came with a message of peace to make clear that this is the State of Israel's supreme interest, which must be at the center of the elections," said Zandberg during the meeting at Abbas's Mukataa compound, accompanied by Arab-Israeli MK Esawi Frej.
"Any government that is formed must commence negotiations. Meretz, the only party promoting the subject of negotiations and the two-state solution, intends to emphasize the issue in the election campaign and bring it to the door of the next government," Zandberg said.
Responding to the Meretz leader, Abbas said it would be willing to reach out to any Israeli government ready to negotiate a peace agreement on the basis of the post-Six Day War borders.
"As you know, we have turned to peace and we have no other option," said Abbas. "This position has been adopted since 1988 and we adhere to it to this day. Our demand is to discuss the 1967 borders, and we extend our hand to any Israeli government that adopts these positions. This is our stance, and we will not move from it."
Abbas continued, however, by attacking Israel's decision last month to freeze approximately 5% of its monthly tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority, deducting the stipends that the Palestinian governing body pays to the families of terrorists.
"We turn to Israel and say: You have no right to hold our money," said Abbas. "Israel is responsible for the economic difficulties we are currently going through, but our political position remains unchanged: the two-state solution, the fight against terror and insisting on the right to return our money."
In response to Israel's decision to withhold the tax money from the Palestinian Authority
, Abbas retaliated by refusing to accept any of the NIS 700 million ($194m.) transfer scheduled for February.
US President Donald Trump's envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt backed Israel in the ongoing feud on Friday, Reuters reported, telling UN Security Council members that the Palestinian Authority had "chosen to manufacture the current crisis."
Otzma Yehudit sharply criticized Zandberg, who was among those who petitioned to ban the extreme right-wing party from the elections, for meeting Abbas.
"Zandberg is the clearest example of the low point where the Israeli far-left currently finds itself," the party said in a statement. "On the far-left, this is the equation: Lovers of Israel out, haters of Israel in."
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