Labor, Yesh Atid spar over Ramallah visit

Lapid tells fellow Yesh Atid members they must avoid a pre-Rosh Hashana toast hosted by PA President Mahmoud Abbas next week.

Lapid looking sullen 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lapid looking sullen 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid decided Tuesday to bar the 19 Knesset members in his faction from attending a pre-Rosh Hashana toast hosted by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas next week in Ramallah.
Lapid told the MKs that they should not go to the event because it would weaken Israel’s side in ongoing negotiations with the Palestinians. He said attending the event would be counter-productive and could undercut Israel’s position.
“When there are direct negotiations between the two sides, we don’t think it is right for coalition MKs to bypass the official talks,” a party spokeswoman said. “We should let the diplomatic process continue via acceptable procedures.”
Sources in Yesh Atid speculated that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who leads Israel’s negotiating team, might have asked MKs not to attend. A meeting of Meretz MKs with Abbas last week undermined the talks because Abbas leaked that no progress had been made in the negotiations.
But sources close to Livni denied that she was involved in Lapid’s decision. MKs from Livni’s party are expected to attend the event.
The event is being organized by Labor MK Hilik Bar, who heads the Knesset Caucus on Ending the Israeli-Arab Conflict. More than 30 MKs who are part of the caucus were expected to travel to Ramallah before Yesh Atid announced the boycott.
Bar expressed frustration with Lapid’s decision and accused him of avoiding taking a clear position on the diplomatic process. The Labor MK said the event would have strengthened the process, not weakened it.
“I expect coalition MKs who support the negotiations to be more active and less scared of their coalition partners from the extreme right,” Bar said. “The meeting will support the coalition and the government and gives them a boost. I would expect Lapid to take steps to strengthen the negotiations and the two-state solution and not avoid cooperating with steps to strengthen trust and dialogue between the two sides.”
The September 3 visit to Ramallah will follow up on the visit of a Palestinian delegation to a meeting of the caucus at the Knesset on July 31.