A group of 15 MKs from Labor, Shas and Hatnua will travel to Ramallah on Monday in an effort to boost support for ongoing peace talks, even as more hawkish MKs called those talks into question amid growing violence in the West Bank.
The Ramallah-bound MKs are members of the Knesset Caucus to Resolve the Arab-Israeli Conflict, whose previous meeting in the Knesset in late July, together with Palestinian Authority representatives, marked the first time the Palestinian flag was raised in Israel’s parliament.
“Our message to Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] will be that there is a real opportunity here, that the Israeli side is ready and able to deliver peace,” caucus chair MK Hilik Bar (Labor) told The Times of Israel on Sunday. “We have a government that has promised to pursue the two-state solution and a majority in the Knesset for two states, despite the rhetoric on the right. We want to show Abu Mazen that we’ll do everything in our power to advance peace, and the Palestinian Authority has to do the same.”
The visit was met with criticism Sunday in the wake of an alleged terror attack Saturday night in which a nine-year-old girl in Psagot was wounded over the weekend. That shooting was the latest in a series of violent incidents perpetrated by Palestinian assailants that included the killing of two IDF soldiers last month and violent demonstrations and rock-throwing incidents in East Jerusalem and several West Bank hot spots.
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) called on Bar to cancel the Ramallah visit “in light of recent events.”
Many officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, several Jewish Home MKs and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, pointed the finger at PA incitement and praise for terrorists as a cause underlying the spate of attacks.
Bar said the visit would go ahead as scheduled. “Every single round of negotiations throughout this peace process, every attempt to bring peace, brought out terrorists and inciters and extremists who do their best to harm negotiations and peace. These people thrive on the conflict and survive through its continuation. That’s why the leaders have to be responsible and mature and try to overcome these setbacks and do everything to end this bloody conflict.”
Added Bar: “We’re not achieving anything when we stop the negotiations because of these horrific, evil attacks. There have been attacks on Jews for decades. Only a final peace agreement that ends the conflict will end the attacks.”
He said the delegation of MKs would challenge Abbas on the issue.
Thirty-three MKs, or one-quarter of the Knesset, attended the July event, including many members from coalition parties.
With the exception of Hatnua, no coalition MKs are joining Monday’s trip. Bar lamented that absence, especially the lack of Likud MKs.
“At the very least, I’d expect to see MKs from the Likud, the party of the prime minister who is leading the negotiations and has committed himself to two states,” he said. “I’m going to Ramallah as an opposition MK to strengthen the hand of our prime minister. Bibi [Netanyahu] once said in the Knesset, ‘Give peace a chance.’ I think that spirit should be reflected in the Likud, to show Israel is ready for peace. Even if these negotiations fail, it shouldn’t be because of Israel.”