Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday night to wish him a happy Ramadan.
The two leaders, on opposing sides of stalled peace talks, rarely exchange words, and Netanyahu used the conversation to push for renewed negotiations.
“I called to send you my blessings for Ramadan,” Netanyahu said, according to a readout released by his office. “I hope that we will have the opportunity to talk to each other not only on holidays, and we will begin negotiations. This is important.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry has been involved in intense efforts to bring the two sides to the table, coaxing both sides to make concessions and goodwill gestures aimed at jump-starting the talks. On Sunday, Palestinian sources said Kerry would possibly make a sixth trip to the region, in as many months, this week.
“I hope that US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts will bear fruit,” Netanyahu said.
Ramadan started on Tuesday, July 9, and continues for 30 days until August 7. A time of spiritual reflection, Muslims fast every day during the holy month, and typically say additional prayers and recitations of the Koran. Once the sun sets, families gather for large festive break-fast meals called iftars.
Netanyahu made a similar call on the eve of the end of Ramadan last year, pledging to bring to justice Jewish terrorists who threw a Molotov cocktail at a Palestinian taxi.
Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been mostly frozen since 2008. The Palestinians demand that Israel freeze settlement building and agree to negotiate based on the pre-1967 lines before they come to the table, while Israel has called for talks without preconditions.
Last month, The Times of Israel revealed that Netanyahu last year offered to release 50 pre-Oslo Accords prisoners to try to help get talks restarted, but Abbas rejected the offer.