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Sunday, March 29, 2020

RAMALLAH—Ynet reports that dozens of members of the Likud and Shas parties visited Ramallah to meet with senior Palestinian officials in an event organized by the Geneva Initiative. The Israelis were greeted by the Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, Yasser Abd Rabbo, and Fatah officials Nabil Shaath and Muhammed Madani. Shaath opened the meeting by wishing a speedy recovery to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and did not hide his excitement for the unusual gathering.

“This is a first meeting of its kind, in a long time. I do not believe we can reach an agreement only through U.S. mediation. I believe that peace through a two-state solution is possible and we have not lost our hope to reach an agreement,” Shaath said.

Shlomo Madmon, a member of the Likud Central Committee, said that he visited Ramallah two years ago. “At that time, I was the only Likudnik. Today there are almost 50 people here from the Likud and this means that something has happened.”

In general, most of the participants made it clear to the Palestinian spokesmen that the ideology on which they were raised could not remain blind to what was happening on the ground.

Regardless of the politeness and mutual compliments, gaps between the sides were evident in the meeting. “Build a Palestinian state now,” one participant said. “For now, it will have temporary borders and then we will continue to talk about the final borders.” The Palestinians responded that a state with temporary borders was not an option for them.

The event concluded with a kosher dinner, and participants did not leave before taking more photographs, shaking hands and exchanging business cards. The Geneva Initiative leaders expressed satisfaction said that attendees  had admirable openness for learning the political issues and engaging with the Palestinians, even as their leaders are engaged in renewal of negotiations through outside intermediaries.