Peace coalition meets; both sides urge return to talks
Labor leadership candidate Amram Mitzna's surging popularity signals to Palestinians that there are people in Israel who still believe in dialogue and peace, Palestinian Authority Culture and Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo declared Sunday.
The PA minister was speaking at a meeting of about 50 Israelis and 30 Palestinians at the A-Ram junction, north of Jerusalem, in one of a series of meetings planned by the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Coalition. The peace group is working on a declaration calling for resumed peace negotiations.
Israelis in the coalition include Yossi Beilin, and Knesset members Colette Avital (Labor), Naomi Chazan (Meretz) and Zahava Gal-On (Meretz).
Besides Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian side includes prominent politicians, artists and academics.
Beilin, a former architect of interim peace deals with the Palestinians, explained that Sunday's meeting aimed at denouncing "any kind of violence, any kind of terrorism - not to justify anything, whether it is a suicide bombing or a retaliation."
For the Palestinians, Abed Rabbo stated: "We are ready to sit and talk about a serious end of the violence, where the Palestinian Authority will be able to reorganize and reconstruct civil and security institutions and the Israeli army will withdraw from the areas Israel has occupied in the past weeks and months."
Beilin told reporters that a growing number of people on both sides "are sick and tired of the situation."
However, he said, "still not enough" of them understand "that the use of force will not save them."
Beilin said in English the meeting was aimed at denouncing "any kind of violence, any kind of terrorism - not to justify anything, whether it is a suicide bombing or a retaliation."
Speaking for the Palestinian team, Abed Rabbo said: "We are encouraged by the courageous voices coming from Israel... declaring that there is a chance for peace."
He said the Palestinian Authority was willing to resume peace negotiations with Israel.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has conditioned such talks on an end to Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis and the election of a new Palestinian leadership that had no links to terror, something which Arafat and his aides have strenously denied.
"We are ready to sit and talk about a serious end of violence, where the Palestinian Authority will be able to reorganize and reconstruct its institutions, civil and security institutions and the Israeli army will withdraw from the areas that Israel has occupied in the past weeks and months," Abed Rabbo said.
Beilin, former justice minister in the government of Sharon's predecessor Ehud Barak, called for "an end to this insanity" and a return to peace talks without precondition.