It is hard to know exactly what this visit by Iraqi Israelis to the Palestinian seat of power in Ramallah will accomplish. Instead of talking peace and brotherhood, speaking Arabic and reciting verses from the Koran, this delegation should have asked Mahmoud Abbas some tough questions. Instead they have bolstered his image as a peace-maker. The Jerusalem Post reports (with thanks: Lily)
MK Yossi Yonah meets Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah
On the bus ride over, Tamar Tzaliach, a retired businesswoman from Jerusalem who loves Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says she is not sure if Abbas is ready to make the compromises necessary for peace.
“I am skeptical; it is possible that he wants to make peace, but he needs to overcome the pressures around him and take a courageous step,” says Tzaliach, whose family comes from Baghdad and Basra.
Zehava Bracha, who operates a website dedicated to preserving Iraqi Arabic among Israeli Jews, says she has not come to make a political statement.
“I am not political, but I believe in peace between both peoples, and that starts with a conversation,” Bracha remarks. “I came to start that conversation.”
As the visitors descend the bus in the Mukata’s parking lot, the PA presidential guard forces welcome and direct them to a medium-sized room, where a number of Abbas’s top advisers are awaiting their arrival.
Among the advisers is Muhammad Madani, the chairman of the Palestinian Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, a Palestinian government body.
Since early 2013, Madani has frequently traveled around Israel, meeting with Israelis from all walks of life, but Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman withdrew Madani’s VIP entry permit in April, making it impossible for Madani to meet Israelis on the other side of the Green Line.
Liberman said that Madani had attempted “to establish a political party” and wanted “to undermine Israel’s political stability,” all claims that the latter vehemently denies.
Madani, together with Zionist Union MK Yossi Yonah, organized Tuesday’s meeting, which comes at a time when there is little discussion of the peace process between the two sides.
Yonah, whose family comes from Nehardea, an ancient Iraqi city, says he met Abbas approximately two months ago and agreed to help arrange for a delegation of Israeli Jews of Iraqi descent to come to Ramallah.
After everyone is seated, Abbas emerges from the doorway and individually shakes each of his guests’ hands.
One guest on the far side of the room recites a verse of the Koran that mentions both Jacob and Ishmael, and Abbas yells in jubilation, “God is great.”
Yonah then takes the floor and delivers remarks in Arabic, while Taleb al-Sana, a former Arab-Israeli member of Knesset, translates into Hebrew.
“Our culture has deep roots and is part and parcel of the region. We also believe that it is still possible to achieve a peace agreement that serves both of our interests,” Yonah says, adding that he “calls on Abbas and Netanyahu to renew talks without preconditions.”