Ahead of a meeting with ministers from the Meretz party on Sunday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke with the parents of two Palestinians who were killed recently as they carried out attacks on Israeli security forces.
Official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Abbas called the father of Israa Khuzaimia, who police said was shot dead last Thursday as she tried to stab officers in the Old City of Jerusalem. Abbas offered his condolences over the death of Khuzaimia, 30, a mother of four.
Abbas also called the father of Alaa Nassar Shafik Zayoud, a member of the Palestinian Islamist Jihaad terror group, who was also killed Thursday after he opened fire on IDF and Border Police officers in Kfar Bourkin near Jenin, in the West Bank.
Later Sunday evening, Abbas met for talks with Israel’s Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej from the left-wing Meretz party in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in the second such high-profile meeting in recent months.
In statements after the meeting, the ministers and Abbas said they were working to keep alive the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which envisions a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem alongside Israel.
Abbas reportedly asked the visiting ministers to extend a personal invitation to their colleagues to meet with him, and in particular to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked of the right-wing Yamina party. Shaked fired back on Twitter that she would not consider meeting with “a Holocaust denier who is suing Israeli soldiers at The Hague and pays the murderers of Jews” — a reference to the PA policy of paying monthly wages to Palestinian terrorists.
The wages, paid to those held in Israeli prisons or to the families of slain attackers, have been repeatedly condemned by Israel.
Opposition lawmakers on the right slammed the Ramallah meeting.
“At a time of peak [coronavirus] morbidity, the health minister left a coronavirus cabinet meeting to meet with [Abbas],” tweeted opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
MK Eli Cohen of Netanyahu’s Likud party attacked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for not preventing the meeting, tweeting: “These days there is no prime minister in Israel and every minister does as he sees fit.”
MK Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party, accused the government of causing “tremendous strategic damage” by engaging with Abbas.
“After he became persona non grata in the international arena,” coalition members have “given Abbas new life and once again made him a relevant player,” Smotrich tweeted.
Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rottman posted a photo of the Meretz ministers with Abbas and wrote, “Taking a smiling photo with someone who signs off on checks for the murderers of babies so long as they are Jewish babies? Seriously?”
ממשלת בנט: שיא של תמותה ותחלואה, שר הבריאות ניצן הורוביץ עוזב הערב את קבינט הקורונה כדי להיפגש עם אבו מאזן. pic.twitter.com/6dBGf8WUO0
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) October 3, 2021
Abbas was largely boycotted by Israeli leadership in recent years, but officials in the new government have pledged to strengthen Abbas’s unpopular government. Defense Minister Benny Gantz, of the Blue and White party, met with Abbas in Ramallah in August before announcing a string of initiatives to aid the PA. That was the first meeting of a senior Israeli leader that Abbas had hosted in a decade.
Bennett, who leads the Yamina party, has said he has no plans to meet with Abbas.
Horowitz and Frej are among the most dovish members of the diverse coalition. Meretz parliamentarian Michal Rozin also attended the meeting.
Bennett has been clear that there will be no return to the peace process under the current government. A longtime champion of the settlement movement, Bennett opposes the creation of a Palestinian state.