It was not the first time a Palestinian flag flew at the Knesset. In July 1999, then-Knesset speaker Avraham Burg hosted his Palestinian counterpart Ahmed Qurei, and there were Palestinian flags all over the parliament.
The caucus's chairman, Labor MK Hilik Bar, said that just like he got 30 of the 120 MKs to come to meet the Palestinian delegation at the Knesset, when the group comes to Ramallah, he expects one fourth of the Palestinian parliament to greet them. It will be up to One Voice, a pro-peace lobby at the parliaments in Jerusalem and Ramallah to work on the Palestinian turn-out.
Besides Madani and Zananiri, the Palestinian delegation included Prisoners Affairs Minister Ashraf Al-Ajami, Palestinian Center for Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development in East Jerusalem director Walid Salem, and Abdallah Abdallah, a former deputy foreign minister who chairs the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The Knesset members included Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen and ministers Yael German and Amir Peretz from coalition parties Yesh Atid and Hatnua but no legislators came from Likud Beytenu or Bayit Yehudi. Speaking in Hebrew, Al-Ajami called upon the MKs in the caucus to persuade Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to keep the nascent diplomatic process going until an agreement is reached that would create a Palestinian state.
"There has to be pressure from the Knesset and the Israeli public on the government to go all the way," Al-Ajami said. "Abbas is taking huge risk by going to peace talks. I don't want to talk about a last chance for peace, but we're both in trouble if it fails."
Abdullah, who recalled turning on the lights on the Sabbath for his Jewish neighbors in Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood as a child before 1948, said "we all have to do our part to give popular support to the negotiations and strengthen the hand of our leaders."
Peretz, who is a former defense minister, said that if the talks fail, a very difficult situation will ensue. He said he believed that both Netanyahu and Abbas have overcome their worries and crossed an ideological rubicon.
"The price of peace is worth it," Peretz said. "To achieve it, it is important to change the dynamic inside both Israeli and Palestinian societies."
German said Netanyahu displayed courage by agreeing to release more than 100 Palestinian prisoners who were jailed for terrorism more than 20 years ago. She said her Health Ministry wanted to cooperate more with its counterpart in the PA.
Israeli flag in Ramallah?
An Israeli flag will soon fly in Ramallah for the first time in many years when the Knesset's Caucus on Ending the Israeli-Arab conflict visits the Palestinian parliament, a representative of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday.
Mohammed Madani, a former Palestinian parliament member who was appointed by Abbas to head a new Palestinian Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, made the promise at a meeting of the caucus with 30 MKs at the Knesset in which the Palestinian and Israeli flags stood side by side.
"It is logical that since you put up a Palestinian flag when we came here that when you come to our parliament, there will be an Israeli flag," Madani told the MKs in response to a question from The Jerusalem Post during the meeting.
But veteran Palestinian journalist Elias Zananiri, who is also on the committee appointed by Abbas, said he did not believe the Israeli flag will fly in Ramallah until a peace agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.
"For us, it's a flag of occupation, so it would be hard to believe that an Israeli flag will fly in Ramallah in two or three weeks when you come," Zananiri said. "Let us have a state with a flag and we won't have any problem waving yours throughout our state."
Singer Ahinoam Nini, who took part in the forum, told the MKs that "Real prosperity will only come to the region when the price of cottage cheese goes down both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority."