Abbas to Host Arab List MKs, but Some Party Members Fear Getting Too Close

Some of the Joint List MKs are concerned that close public ties with the PA could have a negative effect on the party in Israel.

Jack Khoury
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PA President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with Palestinian leaders on December 18, 2014, in the West Bank city of RamallahץCredit: AFP
Jack Khoury

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to host a reception for Joint List MKs after they are sworn in and hold discussions with them on political developments in Israel and the lawmakers’ Knesset activity, an official in Abbas’ office said Wednesday.

The official said the PA does not expect the MKs to focus solely on the Palestinian issue, but said it was important for discussions of peace and ending the occupation to have a prominent place in Israeli political discourse.

Joint List officials confirmed plans for the reception, but some of the 13 MKs on the ticket, an alliance between Israel’s Arab parties and the Arab-Jewish Hadash party, were not pleased the PA had publicized the meeting. Some of the MKs are concerned that close public ties with the PA could have a negative effect on the party in Israel.

“The Joint List is prepared to hold meetings with anyone in the country, in the occupied territories or abroad and make every effort to advance a just peace based on United Nations resolutions, not to mention the leadership of the Palestinian people, which is not finding a partner on the Israeli side,” the party said in a statement. “The Joint List will continue to conduct courageous and frank discourse with all of the citizens in Israel and continue to fight for the liberation of both peoples from the occupation. We believe that is in the genuine interest of both peoples.”

The Palestinian Authority has shown great interest in political developments among Israeli Arabs, particularly the success of Joint List, which has become the third-largest party in the Knesset. Its constituent factions merged after the electoral threshold was raised, requiring parties to win at least 3.25 percent of the vote in order to get into the Knesset.

Leaders of each of the four factions that make up the party — Hadash’s Ayman Odeh, who heads the party; Masud Ganaim of the Islamic Movement; Jamal Zahalka of Balad; and Osama Saadia of Ta’al — met with Fatah officials at Abbas’ Muqata headquarters in Ramallah this week. Mohammed al-Madani, the Abbas representative responsible for contact with the Israeli public, was present at the meeting.

Abbas, who had pushed for the formation of Joint List, met with several of the candidates on the ticket in the run-up to the March 17 election.

Out of patience

The Palestinian Authority is closely following comments by American officials regarding Israel and the peace process, but they don’t appear to be banking on any fundamental policy shift on the part of the U.S. administration. A senior Palestinian official said recent comments by U.S. President Barack Obama and other administration officials critical of Netanyahu are encouraging, but don’t provide anything specific for the Palestinian leadership to hold onto.

At the most recent meeting between Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of an economic conference in Egypt, the Palestinian president came away disappointed, the PA official said. “Kerry again spoke about ideas that he is trying to develop and asked for patience from Abu Mazen [Abbas], and Abu Mazen made it clear to him that his patience has been exhausted,” the official said.

Palestinian officials have said the Obama administration was counting on Netanyahu to lose the election, saying Washington is now trying to figure out its next step in the region. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat recently went to Washington for meetings with senior American officials and representatives of the American Jewish community to discuss what comes next.

Officials in Ramallah said that at this stage the Palestinian leadership would not press for additional UN Security Council action on behalf of the Palestinians because any majority vote is still dependent on the United States, which may require recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a condition for not vetoing resolutions. Instead, the PA appears set to press for action by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

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