Palestinian President receives Israeli ministers in the West Bank
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) – The Palestinian president welcomed two Israeli cabinet ministers for an overnight meeting on Sunday, in a further sign of slow improvement in relations between the parties.
Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freij were the second group of Cabinet members to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since the new Israeli government took office in June. Defense Minister Benny Gantz also met Abbas at his West Bank headquarters in August.
Israel’s new government is made up of eight parties spanning the Israeli political spectrum, from hard-line far-right supporters who oppose a Palestinian state to conciliatory parties who support a two-state solution. Horowitz and Freij were joined by other members of their Meretz party, the coalition’s most conciliatory faction. Horowitz heads the party.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett came from a small, hard-line religious party, and he ruled out the creation of a Palestinian state under his watch. But he called for reducing friction, mainly by taking measures to stimulate the Palestinian economy.
According to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas “stressed the importance of ending the Israeli occupation and achieving a just and comprehensive peace.” Abbas’s self-government government seeks to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the Middle East War in 1967.
Horowitz posted a photo of himself and Abbas on Twitter. “We have a common mission: to preserve the hope of peace, on the basis of a two-state solution,” he said.