Abbas, Fayyad send Netanyahu condolence letters

PA leaders express sorrow at loss of PM's father; in Tunisia, Abbas calls Netanyahu a "partner for peace."

Netanyahu and father Benzion 370 (photo credit: PMO)
Netanyahu and father Benzion 370
(photo credit: PMO)
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 2009.
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.
But on 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.
The prime minister has canceled all his diplomatic appointments and is observing shiva, the traditional seven-day mourning period, in his father’s home.
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 Bill Shorten.
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.
The Palestinians have insisted that they will not speak with Netanyahu until he freezes West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Israel in turn has insisted that talks should be held without preconditions.
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.
Noting 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 Hamas.
“What is important is our interest – that the Palestinian land and people be united,” he said.