A delegation of Israeli Knesset members from the left wing Labor and Meretz parties met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his Ramallah headquarters Wednesday and to discus faltering peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Both parties are currently in the opposition; though Labor has vowed to join the coalition should it fall apart because of a peace deal is reached with the Palestinians, though such a scenario now seems farther than ever.
Israeli delegation in Ramallah (Photo: AFP)
The meeting was attended by Labor MKs Hilik Bar, Michal Biran and Nachman Shai, who used to head the Jewish Agency. From Meretz, MK Nitzan Horowitz and Tamar Zandberg attended. An addition to Abbas, the meeting was also attended by Fatah Central Committee member Mohammed Madani and Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud al Habbash.
The meeting was held amid news that a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed after the killing of Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi, a senior police commander Monday in a shooting attack near Hebron on Passover.
A spokesman for Abbas said the session had been rescheduled for Thursday at the request of the United States. Washington is struggling to extend the talks, on the verge of collapse, beyond an April 29 deadline for a peace deal.
Abbas with MK Hilik Bar (Labor) (Photo: AFP)
At a meeting in his West Bank office with the group of Israeli MKs, Abbas "condemned violence and the killing of Palestinians and Israelis", said Madani, a member of the Central Committee of Abbas's Fatah party.
Abbas himself fell short of making a direct statement to journalists and no joint statement with the Israeli delegation was made.
MK Zandberg wrote on her Facebook page that Abbas told the delegation that he is interested in extending talks by another nine months, but slammed the Israeli government as a poor partner for talks.
Despite Abbas' desire to extend talks, MK Zandberg noted that "nonetheless, this time we are much more concerned and skeptical, to put lightly. If the goal of peace negotiations is not to reach a deal but keep the rightwing government in power – then it is redundant. We should focus on replacing the government and creating a better Israeli partner."
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Abbas, told a news conference with the head of the Israeli delegation MK Hilik Bar that: "We are against violence and against a return to violence."
Abu Rdaina also said that such meetings prove there is "a glimmer of hope" to achieve peace by showing that there are people in Israeli interested in peace and the two state solution, Ma'an reported.
Bar said that during their meeting Abbas condemned the killing and "we were glad to hear him condemn the murder directly before us."
Bar slammed criticism of the meeting with Abbas sounded by rightwing elements in the current government which claimed the meeting should have been canceled after Monday's terror attack.
"The radical right is last one who can preach morality to us. This is the very same right which sits, drinks and eats from Netanyahu's government but does everything in its power to sabotage peace talks. We have had enough of this type of behavior, the right is preventing us from reaching a peace accord."
In addition to condemning the attack in Abbas' name, Fatah leader Madini described the meeting as important and positive. He said that Abbas sends his Passover greetings to the Jewish people and said "such meetings will continue until the two sides reach a solution." According to him, the two delegations spoke about peace talks and the ability to reach a two state solution.
The event was scheduled before Monday's attack. Abbas has held several meetings in the past with Israeli legislators, mainly members of the opposition.
Reuters contributed to this report