Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday night, becoming only the second top Israeli official to meet with Abbas since the current government took office in June.

Horowitz was joined by fellow Meretz Party members, including Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej. According to Meretz, the move was coordinated with and authorized by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

At the meeting, Abbas “stressed the importance of ending the Israeli occupation and achieving a just and comprehensive peace,” according to the P.A.’s Wafa news agency,

The P.A. president also reportedly asked the Meretz officials for a meeting with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.
In response to the reports, Shaked tweeted: “I will not meet with a Holocaust denier who is prosecuting IDF soldiers at [the International Criminal Court at] The Hague and pays Jew killers.”

Right-wing members of the coalition criticized the visit. Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin of the New Hope Party called the meeting “a waste of time and an unnecessary event that causes damage.” He added, “Abu Mazen [Abbas] is at the end of his road and unable to conduct a diplomatic process.”

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Abir Kara of Bennett’s Yamina Party wrote: “The green pass [for restricting entrance to certain venues to Israelis who are vaccinated against or have recovered from the coronavirus] has crashed, millions of Israelis are unable to [get a pass due to technical difficulties], and hundreds of thousands of business are up in the air—but the health minister feels no urgency to deal with it. It’s more pressing to go have dinner with the head of the terror authority in Ramallah.”

Likud Party chairman Yariv Levin said, “Israel’s left-wing government minister continues to crawl on its hands and knees to [Abbas], and all with Prime Minister Bennett’s blessing. Meeting with terrorism funder [Abbas] is more important to the health minister than the health of Israel’s citizens.”

Horowitz, for his part, posted a picture of himself and Abbas on Twitter.

“We have a shared mission: to preserve the hope for peace, on the basis of a two-state solution,” he tweeted.

“Meretz has a mission within the government: to keep the two-state solution alive, not to let it disappear, and not to sabotage the chance of getting there in the future, because there is no other solution,” he wrote.

“We believe there is no room for unilateral steps that harm the chance of implementing the two-state solution: not for new settlements, not for illegal outposts, and not for violence by radical settler elements,” he continued.

Meretz Knesset member Michal Rozin said: “It’s important we express the fact that we still believe in the two-state solution. I expect to hear from [Abbas] his commitment to the war on terror and security cooperation with Israel—to promote a struggle that is nonviolent.”

Frej said: “We are here to advance the two-state solution, to say ‘you are our partner.’ The future is important, but we must first act to make a better present, and for that, you need cooperation between the ministries and governments.”

In a statement released following the meeting, Abbas’s office said: “We must begin to create confidence-building steps, to prove we intend to make peace, and to … maintain the hope of the Palestinian people. I invite all new government ministers in Israel to come here. We don’t have to agree, [but] we do need to talk.”

According to the Wafa report, hours ahead of the meeting, Abbas called the parents of the terrorist killed while trying to carry out an attack in Jerusalem last week, as well as the parents of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative killed during an IDF operation in Jenin last Thursday, to offer his condolences. “May they rest in Heaven. They are the heroes of the Palestinian people,” he said.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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