An article by NY Times Israel bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, published Oct. 7, is upbeat in reporting remarks by Palestinian Pres. Mahmoud Abbas in a Ramallah meeting with a Knesset delegation, apparently comprised mostly or entirely of Labor party MKs (a detail omitted by Rudoren). She describes it as “a rare meeting with Israeli politicians,” but it’s one of a series that has been occurring with increasing frequency. Meretz MKs visited recently, and even Likud and Shas parliamentarians have met not long ago with Palestinian officials in Ramallah.
The conciliatory tone was a sharp contrast to a strident speech the night before by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … Mr. Netanyahu derisively recounted the support that a long-ago Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem provided the Nazis, and said that there could be an agreement only if the Palestinian leadership recognized Israel as a Jewish state, a notion it has long rejected. [Upon first blush, I felt that Rudoren was being negligent in not mentioning the historical context of Netanyahu’s reference to the infamous Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, a key Palestinian nationalist leader who actively supported Nazi military efforts and advocated attacks on Jews. But Rudoren’s larger point is correct, Netanyahu was not being helpful in the current push for peace by making such remarks.–Seliger]
But when asked Monday about such recognition, after the news cameras were gone, Mr. Abbas demurred rather than repeat his stock answers about Israel’s being able to describe itself as it wishes or seek such definition at the United Nations. He did not invoke the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to the land they left when Israel became a state in 1948, nor did he mention the plight of Arab citizens of Israel. “The things that he didn’t say I think were most important,” said Merav Michaeli, a member of Israel’s Labor Party. “He made sure that he doesn’t say anything that makes us uncomfortable.” The unusual meeting came after weeks of delay and amid controversy, with the centrist Yesh Atid Party barring its members from attending and right-wingers pressuring their colleagues to cancel after Saturday’s shooting.
It followed a July visit by a delegation of Palestinian leaders to Israel’s Parliament, where the Palestinian and Israeli flags were on display side by side in that building for the first time in more than a decade. . . .
Mr. Abbas told guests that the United Nations push was not an alternative to talks with Israel, because “we know the problem between us will only be solved in negotiations.” He said he had been “very close to an agreement” with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, calling that “an important opportunity that we missed, we and you both.” And he said there was “100 percent security cooperation” between the Palestinian Authority and Israeli forces because “we want a completely normal atmosphere.” . . .