Abbas invites all Israeli ministers to meet with him after Meretz visit

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas invited all Israeli ministers to come to Ramallah and meet with him, after hosting a delegation from the Meretz party on Sunday evening.

“We don’t need to agree with each other, we just need to talk,” Abbas told the Meretz delegation. It included party leader and health minister Nitzan Horowitz, regional cooperation minister Esawi Frej and Meretz faction leader MP Michal Rozin.

Meretz politicians have visited Abbas in the past when in opposition, but this is the first time they have done so as members of the government.

Former prime minister and current Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu attacked Horowitz for meeting Abbas, noting that he left the COVID-19 cabinet meeting to do so.

Likud faction leader MP Yariv Levin said the meeting showed Horowitz was more concerned with meeting “terrorist financier Abu Mazen than the health of Israeli citizens.”

Before meeting with the Meretz delegation, Abbas called the family of Israa Khuzaimia, who were killed by Israeli police after attempting to stab an officer in Jerusalem’s Old City last week.

Abbas offered his condolences to Khuzaimia’s family, according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency. The agency described Khuzaimia as a mother of four from the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya, south of Jenin.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also visited Abbas, but the question of whether to speak with the Palestinian leader is a source of division within the government.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Yamina party and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party have no interest in speaking with Abbas.

According to Barak Ravid of the Hebrew website Walla, Abbas specifically mentioned his interest in speaking with Home Secretary Ayelet Shaked.

A surprised Shaked immediately took to Twitter to reject the offer.

Home Secretary Ayelet Shaked is seen speaking in the Knesset on July 5, 2021. (MARC ISRAEL SELLEM / THE JERUSALEM POST)

“It won’t happen,” she wrote categorically.

“I will not meet a Holocaust denier who pursues Israeli soldiers in The Hague and pays murderers of Jews,” Shaked tweeted.

“Good night,” she added.

Unlike Shaked, the Meretz delegation in Ramallah spoke about the importance of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and cooperation. They pledged their support for a two-state resolution to the conflict, even though the peace process has been frozen since 2014.

“We have arrived today to rebuild a direct and permanent canal [of communication], and to give a “boost” to the collaboration, ”said Horowitz.

Abbas told the delegation, “We must create confidence-building measures that will prove that we intend to make peace and allow me to preserve the hope of the Palestinian people.

“If we lose hope, we will lose the future,” Abbas added.

Horowitz told Abbas that “within government, Meretz is responsible for keeping the two-state solution alive. We will not let it go away and we will not sabotage the chances of making it happen in the future, because there is no other way.

He spoke out against unilateral Israeli activities that would undermine any future plans for two states, such as the construction of settlements and outposts, as well as violence against Palestinians by Jewish extremists.

Frej told Abbas: “you are our partner” in moving the two states forward. Cooperation between ministries and governments is essential to improve the current reality, he added.

Rozin added that his party would “do whatever it takes” to lay the foundations for peace.

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