Former Knesset Member Uri Avnery, a leading member of Gush Shalom (the Israeli Peace Bloc), met with Sheikh Muhammad Abu-Tir, Hamas Member of the Palestinian Legislative council from Jerusalem. The meeting took place at Abu-Tir's home at Zur Baher Neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Avnery expressed total opposition to the intention of the Olmert Government to expel Abu-Tir and three other elected Parliamentarians from their Jerusalem homes. On Monday this week, the four had been summoned to the Jerusalem police headquarters and presented with an ultimatum to resign from their parliamentary positions - failure to do which would result in deprivation of their Jerusalem residency status and enable the government to deport them from their homes.
Avnery told Abu-Tir that Gush Shalom calls for the immediate opening of negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian governments, with no preconditions and on the basis of stopping all violent acts on both sides.
Avnery stated further: "I was a Knesset member at the time when East Jerusalem was annexed to Israel. I can testify that no intention was expressed at the time to reduce the inhabitants of East Jerusalem to the status of 'permanent residents', as if they were newly-arrived immigrants asking for an Israeli residence permit which can be revoked at will. Since Palestinians have lived in Jerusalem for fifty generations at least, this is both ridiculous and a grave injustice".
Avnery added: "No less ridiculous is the attempt to boycott the elected, Hamas-headed Palestinian government, which was democratically elected by the Palestinian people".
Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson, expects that soon a large delegation of Israeli peace movements will meet with the Hamas leadership, in order to build up an initial basis for dialogue. He mentioned that Avnery had been the first Israeli to meet with Yasser Arafat, and said: "We have played that role then, and it seems we have to do it again."
Keller reminded that Shimon Peres, on behalf of the Government of Israel when signing the Oslo Agreements, took the formal obligation not to interfere with Palestinian institutes in East Jerusalem and with the right of Palestinian Jerusalemites to elect and be elected to the Palestinian legislature. "How can we demand of the Palestinian Government to respect signed agreements, and at the same time ourselves tread them underfoot?" Keller asked.
For more information:
Uri Avnery +972-(0)505-306440
Adam Keller +972-(0)506-709603