Reform movement leaders meet with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah

Delegation of American Reform leaders meets with Palestinian Authority chief and Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.


Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

JTA - Leaders of the U.S. Reform movement met with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday.

The delegation of around 30 leaders from the Union for Reform Judaism, led by its president, Rick Jacobs, met with Abbas and other Palestinian Authority officials Thursday afternoon.

Discussions during the meeting, which represented the first time a URJ delegation led by Jacobs met with Palestinian Authority leadership, included the two-state-solution, Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, and the Trump administration. Reform clergy have led protests against Trump and are continuing to do so.

“I was impressed with [Abbas'] clear and unequivocal commitment to the two-state solution,” Jacobs said in a statement. “He clearly is frustrated with the lack of progress, or even the existence of ongoing negotiations. I share that frustration.”

Jacobs also said he learned from Palestinian Authority officials that they had spoken with the Trump administration, which had confirmed that U.S. policy continues to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. At a joint news conference last month with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Trump had said he “can live” with either a one or two-state solution or any solution, a statement Arabs slammed for breaking with decades of American policy.

Not surprisingly, one unnamed Palestinian Authority official told Israel Radio that the president’s words were “the biggest disaster it was possible to hear from the American president" and left-wing Jewish groups also criticized Trump’s statement.

During Thursday’s meeting, the delegation also spoke with Abbas “about the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility to stem anti-Israeli incitement.”

“He acknowledged it was a real challenge, just as it is in Israel, and called for reviving the anti-incitement trilateral committee led by the U.S.,” Jacobs said. No discussion of terror was reported.

Daryl Messinger, chair of the URJ North American Board, acknowledged that the two sides disagreed about some issues.

“We clearly did not agree on everything, nor did we expect to. We were warmly received, and I found our conversation to be positive,” Messinger said.

The URJ delegation, which arrived in Israel on Monday, also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Jewish Agency President Natan Sharansky as well as members of the Knesset. The group is scheduled to speak with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday.