Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian flag should not be raised in Tel Aviv, according to three Israeli community leaders who met with him earlier this week.
All three community leaders told The Times of Israel that Abbas, 83, stated that the Palestinian flag should not be raised in Tel Aviv, but each of them quoted him slightly differently.
Abbas made the comments after a host of Israeli politicians criticized a demonstration last Saturday in Tel Aviv against the quasi-constitutional nation-state law, in which a small number of protesters waved Palestinian flags.
“He told us very clearly that we should not raise the Palestinian flag in Tel Aviv and that we should work to take down the Israeli flag in the Palestinian territories,” said Thabet Abu Ras of the Abraham Fund, which promotes coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel. “He also emphasized that our struggle in Israel should not be a national one, but rather a civil one for equality and full rights.”
Abbas met with Abu Ras; Hatem Hasson, a Druze social activist; Nazir Majali, a journalist; Rassem Khamaisi, a professor at the University of Haifa; and Taleb el-Sana, a former member of Knesset, at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on Monday.
The Haaretz daily first reported on Wednesday that Abbas is “not interested” in seeing Palestinian flags wave in Tel Aviv.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the protest on Sunday, criticizing the presence of the Palestinian flags at it.
“Yesterday we saw PLO flags in the heart of Tel Aviv,” Netanyahu said. “Many of the demonstrators want to abrogate the Law of Return, cancel the national anthem, fold up our flag and cancel Israel as the national state of the Jewish people and turn it – as their spokespersons said – into an Israeli-Palestinian state, and others say: A state of all its citizens.”
“It is for precisely this that we passed the nation-state law,” he added.
The nation-state law, which the Knesset passed with a 62-55 vote on July 19, enshrined Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people,” and said “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It also recognized Jewish holidays and days of remembrance and declared Hebrew the state’s national language.
The legislation included no reference to the equality of all Israeli citizens and it appeared to grant the Arabic language a lesser status than Hebrew.
Hasson, the social activist, also said that Abbas stated the Palestinian flag should not be hoisted in Tel Aviv.
“He said that we should not raise the Palestinian flag in Israel because it does not benefit us or advance the peace process,” Hasson stated. “He also mentioned that it plays into the agenda of the right in Israel, which wants to delegitimize the protest against the nation-state law.”
At the protest on Saturday, there were tens of thousands of demonstrators, and several dozen Palestinian flags.
Organizers asked the demonstrators not to bring flags to the protest, according to Mohammed Barakeh, a longtime leader of the left-wing Hadash party who currently heads the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee.
Fourteen percent of Arab-Israelis primarily identify as Palestinians, according to a poll published by the Israel Democracy Institute in November 2017.
Majali, the journalist, said that Abbas stated the Palestinian flag should not be raised in Tel Aviv, but added that the PA president also said if some people must wave it there, they must do so beside an Israeli flag.
“He told us that he is proud of the Palestinian flag and that it is the flag of our people, but that raising [it] in Tel Aviv antagonizes Jews,” Majali said. “He said the Palestinian flag should not be raised in Tel Aviv, but that if some people must raise it there, they should only do so alongside an Israeli flag.”
A Palestinian official who attended the meeting between Abbas and the Israeli community leaders on Monday did not to respond to requests for comment.