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In his first meeting with Israeli officials since the Hamas victory in January's parliamentary elections, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas discussed ways to eradicate terrorism and form a partnership with Labor chairman Amir Peretz Thursday at the Allenby bridge near Jericho.
The meeting was part of an ongoing effort by Peretz to form a coalition with what he termed "moderate voices in the Arab world."
"Israel will remain united against all terror attacks," Peretz said following the hour-long meeting. "Abbas said that terror only hurts Palestinians and Israelis. I asked him to do everything in his power to stop the attacks; we must return to peaceful paths."
"We discussed ways of resuming the road map and the negotiations," echoed Abbas during his statement to the press. "We hope that after the March 28 elections in Israel both parties will sit back at the negotiation table. We believe in one authority, one leadership, and one military force. We oppose any violence."
While the rival Kadima party - which has maintained its lead in the polls - has distanced itself from Abbas since the Palestinian elections, Peretz expressed optimism in continuing to meet with him. Peretz had already met with several Arab leaders in the Middle East, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Morocco's King Muhammad V.
"We have no war with the Arab or Muslim world. We have no war with the Palestinian people. We have a struggle against terrorist organizations," Peretz said, while sending his condolences to those wounded in Wednesday's terror attack.
He also emphasized the need to maintain humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. He warned that stopping humanitarian aid would hamper the peace process and weaken moderate elements in the PA. "We are against collective punishment," Peretz said.
Abbas brushed off Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's assertion that he was no longer relevant by saying it was "a matter of opinion." Earlier Thursday, he told the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat that recent claims that he was going to resign were "one big rumor."
The Palestinian leader also told the press that he was concerned about the reports that al-Qaida elements had infiltrated the Palestinian territories.
"Such elements are trying to sabotage the region," Abbas said. "We have to be vigilant and prevent such acts of sabotage."
Labor MKs Matan Vilna'i, Ephraim Sneh and Ghaleb Majadle accompanied Peretz in his meeting. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat joined the meeting as well.
Before entering the meeting, Vilna'i attacked Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for claiming the entire PA was now made up of Hamas.
"The PA's moderate side is Abbas's which, to our regret, is now weak," said Vilna'i. "But in no way must we say that the entire PA is Hamas. We must fight Hamas as if there is no PA, and talk with the PA as if there is no Hamas."
Majadle said that during the meeting he told Abbas that he must increase his efforts to stem terrorism in light of the upcoming elections.
"Terrorism in this sensitive time will hurt the parties on the left, the parties that are interested in seriously working for peace," said Majadle. "He agreed with me and said that he hoped we would see peace in the upcoming month."
Six weeks ago, senior Kadima candidate Shimon Peres expressed interest in meeting the Palestinian chairman, yet the two never met. Each side claims that the other was responsible for the cancellation.