It was a first of its kind event Tuesday afternoon when Palestinian Authority (P.A.) Chairman and Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) crossed the threshold of the President's Residence in Jerusalem. He was there, along with a V.I.P.
He and his colleagues were seeking to recruit Peres to help "halt settlement expansion."
entourage, for a meeting with President Shimon Peres. Abu Mazen and President Peres discussed local and regional developments, as well as joint Israeli-P.A. economic initiatives.
The P.A. Chairman's visit with Peres included all the trappings of a visit by a foreign dignitary, including P.L.O. flags alongside Israeli flags and a red-carpet reception. The official President's Residence in Jerusalem is where the President traditionally greets and hosts visiting V.I.P.s.
P.A. negotiator Saeb Erekat, who also attended the meeting with Peres, said that he and his colleagues were seeking to recruit Peres to help "halt settlement expansion."
In his comments to reporters at the President's Residence, Abbas said, "We are against [kidnapped IDF Cpl.] Gilad Shalit's captivity. He must be released in exchange for other prisoners. This is the only way we can reach a solution." Shalit is currently being held by the Hamas terrorist organization, which rules the P.A. in Gaza.
Speaking with Voice of Israel government radio before the meeting, President Peres said, "Abu Mazen is the elected leader and he has stood up courageously against Hamas. He deserves to be invited in an honorable way to the President's Residence in Jerusalem."
Recent efforts on Abbas's part regarding Hamas, however, have focused primarily on drafting a unity agreement with the Islamist terror organization. In addition, as noted by opposition Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), Abbas-controlled P.A. media have been singing the praises of mass murderers Samir Kuntar and Dalal al-Mughrabi in recent days.
P.A. news agency P.N.N. commented, "Although some describe the meeting as historic because it is the first time Peres has invited Abbas to his home, the local community is not hopeful that it will produce a tangible result."
In contrast, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that his meeting with Abu Mazen in Paris two weeks ago was fruitful and serious, leading to significant understandings ahead of a diplomatic agreement.