IstanbulIsrael news photo: Flash 90

While Turkey’s prime minister made headlines by calling Zionism a “crime against humanity” at a United Nations conference in Europe, Israeli and Palestinian Authority lawmakers were quietly meeting in Istanbul to find ways to re-start the peace process.

Last week at a U.N. conference in Vienna Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan outraged most of the Western world -- and certainly Jerusalem, Washington and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -- by equating Zionism with anti-Semitism, fascism and Islamophobia, all of which he labeled "a crime against humanity."

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Ankara for talks with Erdogan, which included some strong language about the Turkish leader's public rhetoric towards the Jewish State.

But while all that was going on, Labor MK Yitzchak Herzog had arrived in Istanbul to meet with senior PA official Yasser Abed Rabbo in Turkey’s largest city over the weekend to discuss the upcoming visit to the region of U.S. President Barack Obama. 

Both agreed the visit must result in a rejuvenation of final status talks between Israel and the PA. Neither are top leaders in their present governments, however, and the amount of influence each carries with those back home is questionable. It is also not clear under whose auspices and by whose initiative the two arrived for talks in Istanbul in the first place.

Israel’s Channel 10 news quoted Herzog as saying in an address that he believes “that there is a chance for peace with our neighbors, and we must not give up on it, not even for a moment.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has been holding coalition talks with Labor for the past several weeks, despite past statements by Labor Chairwoman MK Shelly Yechimovich that the party would not join a Netanyahu-led government.

Herzog, along with fellow senior party member Binyamin (Fouad) Ben-Eliezer, reportedly has been pressuring Yechimovich to change her mind.

Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s executive committee, was a supporter of the signing of the Oslo Accords. He has served on a number of PLO/PA delegations for talks with Israel - including the failed Camp David 2000 summit. However, he also promoted the false accusation that Israel had dug mass graves for 900 PA Arabs in Jenin. 

Having served for many years as a minister in former PA/PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat’s government, Rabbo was removed from the post when Mahmoud Abbas took over, and has remained as an adviser without title instead.