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President Moshe Katsav met with representatives of all Arab parties on Tuesday. Hadash was first, led by Mohamad Barakei, whom the president embraced warmly and kissed on both cheeks.
In welcoming Ziv Hanin, number three on the Chadash list, Katsav said that he was pleased to at long last see a Jew on the list.
Barakei said that it was always a pleasure to meet with the president, who had always displayed a positive attitude toward the Arab community. It was important, he added, that a call go out from Beit Hanassi saying that Arabs are equal in every respect and interested in having a partnership based on mutual respect.
In response, Katsav said that he was utterly opposed to any attempt to deprive Arab citizens of their rights: "The rights of all citizens must be preserve and kept equal."
At the conclusion of the meeting, Barakei told reporters that Hadash had recommended neither Kadima chairman Ehud Olmert or Labor chairman Amir Peretrz to form the next government and left the decision to the president's discretion.
Hadash could not go along with Olmert's political or social policies, said Barakei. As for Peretz, Hadash does not believe that his proposal for emergency government based on social justice is realistic. "If there was a genuine option, we would choose Peretz. But we're not going to sit on the bench in a game in which we're not participating."
Hadash asked Katsav to lead an initiative to lead with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. "We think that it's important for Katsav to talk to Abu Mazen as soon as possible," said Barakei, explaining that while Israel sees Hamas as part of the problem, it does not recognize that Hamas is also part of the solution.