Lior Michael, a student from the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo, spoke to Arutz Sheva Wednesday about his personal experiences at Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's meeting with Israeli students this week.
"It was nice to hear what he had to say," Michael began. "I think that it's a welcome initiative to be able to sit face-to-face and ask questions directly, without mediation."
Michael himself did not ask questions, however, and explained that many students missed the opportunity due to time considerations. The questions that did manage to surface were a mix of tough topics and questions that were obvious, in his opinion. Those questions, according to Michael, "were not even real issues. They were [about] topics where it was obvious what [Abbas] was going to say - questions like the relationship between Jews and Arabs in our generation."
When asked about any insights that did occur to Michael because of the meeting, he responded that Abbas's tastes reflect the more moderate views among Palestinian Arabs, and that it was refreshing to hear them directly and not through the media.
Michael also stated that while Abbas was not asked about some of the thorniest issues facing Israel's relationship with the PA - e.g. the PA's ongoing incitement against Israel - he had raised the issues in the session on his own. Abbas claimed that he had proposed a joint task force against the incitement problem between Israel, the PA, and the US - but that Israel rejected the offer.
When asked, "We see images in the media of Abbas hugging freed terrorists, but no one seems to have reacted to it. Yet if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were to hug, say, Ami Popper, [an Israeli convicted of a deadly terrorist attack against Palestinian Arabs in 1990 - ed.] the public reaction would be fierce. Was this brought up at the meeting?"
Michael answered that it had not been, and added that the question of the PA threatening to "wipe Israel off the map" - and the fact that PA maps have already been published to that effect - had also not been asked at the conference.
Despite the setbacks, Michael claimed that Abbas was "the only real partner for peace" Israel has at the moment, and as such it was still worth it for him to attend the conference. He also stated that despite the fact that the meeting was apparently meant to paint Abbas in a positive light by definition - and that questions and answers were filtered for the media - that he and his fellow students "did not feel exploited" during the meeting.