Palestinian flag out in honor as PA officials visit Knesset

Flags displayed during meeting at Knesset's Caucus on Ending Israeli-Arab Conflict; last time flags displayed was 1999.

Palestinian flag at Knesset (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian flag at Knesset
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
An Israeli flag will soon fly in Ramallah for the first time in many years when the Knesset’s Caucus on Ending the Israeli-Arab Conflict visits the Palestinian parliament, a representative of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday.
Muhammad Madani, a former Palestinian parliament member whom Abbas appointed to head a new Palestinian Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, made the promise at a meeting the caucus held with 30 MKs at the Knesset, during which the Palestinian and Israeli flags stood side by side.
“It is logical that since you put up a Palestinian flag when we came here that when you come to our parliament, there will be an Israeli flag,” Madani told the MKs in response to a question from The Jerusalem Post during the meeting.
But veteran Palestinian journalist Elias Zananiri, who is also on the committee that Abbas appointed, said he did not believe the Israeli flag would fly in Ramallah until Israel and the Palestinians reached a peace agreement.
“For us, it’s a flag of occupation, so it would be hard to believe that an Israeli flag will fly in Ramallah in two or three weeks when you come,” Zananiri said. “Let us have a state with a flag, and we won’t have any problem waving yours throughout our state.”
It was not the first time a Palestinian flag flew at the Knesset.
In July 1999, then-Knesset speaker Avraham Burg hosted his Palestinian counterpart, Ahmed Qurei, and there were Palestinian flags all over the parliament.
The caucus’s chairman, Labor MK Hilik Bar, said that just like he had gotten 30 of the 120 MKs to come meet the Palestinian delegation at the Knesset, he expected one fourth of the Palestinian parliament to greet the group when it came to Ramallah. It will be up to One Voice, a pro-peace lobby at the parliaments in Jerusalem and Ramallah, to work on the Palestinian turnout.
Besides Madani and Zananiri, the Palestinian delegation included Prisoners Affairs Minister Ashraf al-Ajami; Walid Salem, director of the Palestinian Center for Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development in East Jerusalem; and Abdullah Abdullah, a former deputy foreign minister who chairs the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The Knesset members included Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen and ministers Yael German and Amir Peretz from coalition parties Yesh Atid and Hatnua, respectively.
However, no legislators came from Likud Beytenu or Bayit Yehudi.
Speaking in Hebrew, Ajami called on the MKs in the caucus to persuade Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to keep the nascent diplomatic process going until the parties reached an agreement that would create a Palestinian state.
“There has to be pressure from the Knesset and the Israeli public on the government to go all the way,” Ajami said. “Abbas is taking a huge risk by going to peace talks. I don’t want to talk about a last chance for peace, but we’re both in trouble if it fails.”
Abdullah, who recalled turning on the lights on Shabbat for his Jewish neighbors in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood as a child before 1948, said, “We all have to do our part to give popular support to the negotiations and strengthen the hand of our leaders.”
Peretz, a former defense minister, said that if the talks failed, a very difficult situation would ensue. He said he believed that both Netanyahu and Abbas had overcome their worries and crossed an ideological Rubicon.
“The price of peace is worth it,” he said. “To achieve it, it is important to change the dynamic inside both Israeli and Palestinian societies.”
German said Netanyahu had displayed courage in agreeing to release more than 100 Palestinian prisoners who had been jailed for terrorism more than 20 years ago. She said her Health Ministry wanted to cooperate more with its counterpart in the PA.
Singer Ahinoam Nini, who took part in the forum, told the MKs that “real prosperity will only come to the region when the price of cottage cheese goes down both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority” – a reference to the social justice protests of two years ago.