Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz has met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday, becoming only the second top Israeli official to meet with Abbas since the current government took office in June.
Horowitz was joined by fellow left wing Meretz Party members, including Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej. According to Meretz, the move was coordinated with and authorized by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
At the meeting, Horowitz, who posted a picture of himself and Abbas on Twitter, reportedly said: ‘’Meretz has a mission in the government: to keep the two-state solution alive. We won’t let it disappear, and we won’t (let anyone) sabotage the chance of achieving that in the future because there isn’t any other solution. We believe that there is no place for unilateral steps that might undermine the chances of implementing the two-state solution. Not new settlements, not outposts and not violence by extremists among the settlers… We have come today to rebuild a direct and permanent channel, and to give a booster shot to cooperation.”
Frej said: “We are here to advance the two-state solution, to say ‘you are our partner.’ The future is important, but we must first act to make a better present, and for that, you need cooperation between the ministries and governments.”
At the meeting, Abbas “stressed the importance of ending the Israeli occupation and achieving a just and comprehensive peace,” according to the P.A.’s Wafa news agency,
Last week Israel Hayom reported that the PA has begun to lay the “groundwork” for a possible resumption of peace negotiations with Israel if and when Yair Lapid, currently Foreign Minister, becomes prime minister in August 2023.
The P.A. president also reportedly asked the Meretz officials for a meeting with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.
In response to the reports, Shaked tweeted: “I will not meet with a Holocaust denier who is prosecuting IDF soldiers at [the International Criminal Court at]The Hague and pays Jew killers.”
Right-wing members of the coalition criticized the visit. Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin of the New Hope Party called the meeting “a waste of time and an unnecessary event that causes damage.” He added, “Abu Mazen [Abbas] is at the end of his road and unable to conduct a diplomatic process.”
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Abir Kara of Bennett’s Yamina Party wrote: “The green pass [for restricting entrance to certain venues to Israelis who are vaccinated against or have recovered from the coronavirus]has crashed, millions of Israelis are unable to [get a pass due to technical difficulties], and hundreds of thousands of business are up in the air—but the health minister feels no urgency to deal with it. It’s more pressing to go have dinner with the head of the terror authority in Ramallah.”
Opposition Likud Party chairman Yariv Levin said, “Israel’s left-wing government minister continues to crawl on its hands and knees to [Abbas], and all with Prime Minister Bennett’s blessing. Meeting with terrorism funder [Abbas] is more important to the health minister than the health of Israel’s citizens.”
According to the Wafa report, hours ahead of the meeting, Abbas called the parents of the terrorist killed while trying to carry out an attack in Jerusalem last week, as well as the parents of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative killed during an IDF operation in Jenin last Thursday, to offer his condolences. “May they rest in Heaven. They are the heroes of the Palestinian people,” he said.