A Phony Invite From Netanyahu to Abbas

The prime minister invited the Palestinian president to address the Knesset - but he does not have the right to do so.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

French President Francois Hollande’s visit to Israel provided Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a wonderful public relations opportunity in the international diplomatic arena. There was no shtick the prime minister didn’t use, from greetings in French to a visit to the Mount of Olives to the graves of the Jews murdered in Toulouse last year.

On Monday, during Hollande’s visit to the Knesset, Netanyahu pulled out another gimmick. From the dais, he called on Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen ‏(Mahmoud Abbas‏) to visit the Knesset. “Most of the Knesset members are united: In order for the peace to be genuine, it must be two-way,” he said. “It’s impossible to ask the Jews to recognize a Palestinian nation-state without demanding that the Palestinians recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people. A few hours ago you met with Mahmoud Abbas, and I call on him from here today: Let’s break the impasse. Come to the Knesset. I’ll come to Ramallah. Go up to this dais and acknowledge the historic truth.”

Inviting a foreign leader to address the Knesset is considered the ultimate gesture of friendship. Prime Minister Menachem Begin invited Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to speak in the Knesset in 1977, and Sadat unexpectedly accepted the invitation, which led to the peace treaty with Egypt. The Knesset also hosted former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. U.S. President Barack Obama chose to skip the chance to speak in the Knesset, and aroused the legislators’ anger. Inviting Abu Mazen to the Knesset at a time when the international media were closely following Hollande’s visit was supposed to be Netanyahu’s winning card in demonstrating that he wants peace with our neighbors. And really, what could be more courageous than inviting your former enemy to the dais of the Parliament?

But Netanyahu’s invitation is an illusion. Aside from the fact that he doesn’t have the authority to invite guests to the Knesset, Abu Mazen simply cannot go there. The Knesset Speaker may invite guests with the approval of the Knesset Constitution Committee, but potential invitees include only heads of state, leaders of parliament and the heads of organizations of which Israel is a member ‏(such as the United Nations or the European Union‏).

Israel, ironically, does not recognize Palestine as a state, and doesn’t recognize Abu Mazen as a head of state. So, in the present situation, Abu Mazen cannot come to the Knesset, and Netanyahu’s invitation was meaningless.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and French President Hollande.Credit: GPO

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