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Palestinian leader Abbas, Jordan’s king, Gulf allies send condolences over Meron

Day after he blamed Israel for forcing him to suspend elections, PA chief tells Rivlin he’s praying for disaster victims; Arab states without ties to Israel also said reaching out

President Reuven Rivlin, right, meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the funeral for late former president Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, on September 30, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin, right, meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the funeral for late former president Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, on September 30, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and several other Arab leaders have sent messages of condolence to Israel in the hours since dozens of ultra-Orthodox Israelis were crushed to death at the mass Lag B’Omer gathering at Mount Meron in the northern Galilee.

Among these, the Foreign Ministry said Friday afternoon, have been empathetic messages from countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties. It did not specify which countries.

Abbas wrote to President Rivlin Rivlin a day after he announced the indefinite suspension of Palestinian parliamentary elections that had been scheduled for May, and blamed Israel for not clarifying whether it would allow Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem.

In his letter to Rivlin, Abbas expressed his sorrow “for the tragedy that claimed the lives of dozens of victims,” adding, “we are praying for the victims and hope for the recovery of those injured,” according to the President’s Office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, in Amman on January 16, 2014 (AP/Yousef Allan/Jordanian Royal Palace)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II called Rivlin and offered condolences, Rivlin’s office said.

The president thanked the Jordanian king, who generally maintains very little public contact with Israeli leaders, saying the “embrace” by Israel’s friends around the world “warms the heart and gives strength.”

Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa attends an event in Manama, Bahrain, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)

The crown prince of Bahrain, with which Israel said a substantive normalization agreement as part of the Abraham Accords last year, offered his condolences: “His royal highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the crown prince and prime minister, today sent a cable of condolences to the prime minister of the State of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, following the Lag Ba’omer Mount Meron stampede,” according to a statement.

He “expressed his condolences to the government of Israel and the families of the victims, while wishing the injured a speedy recovery.”

The UAE’s first ambassador to Israel, Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah, with President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem on March 1, 2021. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

The first of Israel’s Abraham Accords partners, the United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, posted tweets in Hebrew, Arabic and English from its new embassy in Tel Aviv, saying “our hearts go out to the people of Israel who lost their loved ones in the tragedy.” The ambassador, embassy staff “and all the people of the UAE offer condolences to the families, and wish a full and swift recovery to those injured,” it said.

The Foreign Ministry said minister Gabi Ashkenazi also received a condolence call from Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed.

Israeli Arab political leaders also issued empathetic statements.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh spoke of “heartache” for the dozens of families “left torn and bereaved.” He said he was heartened to see Jews and Arabs work together to respond to the disaster, calling it “a small ray of light in the great tragedy.”

He also called for a thorough probe of failures that led to the event.

Israeli security officials and rescuers carry a body of a victim who died during Lag B’Omer celebrations at Mt. Meron in northern Israel, April 30, 2021 (AP Photo)

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi tweeted of “a terrible disaster” and expressed “deep sorrow for those who died on the day they came to celebrate.”

Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, who has spoken in recent weeks of a desire to build better relations between Israel’s Jews and Arabs, and is being wooed by both the pro- and anti-Benjamin Netanyahu camps after last month’s deadlocked elections, sent condolences to the bereaved and wrote of  the”difficult feelings over the terrible disaster.”

Several local Arab towns and villages reached out in the immediate aftermath of the disaster to help the victims and the rescue efforts.

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