JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a secret meeting two weeks ago.
During the meeting in Jordan, Barak asked Abbas to stop the Palestinians’ bid for a statehood declaration at the United Nations and to reign in mass demonstrations, Israel Hayom reported. The Netanyahu administration confirmed that the meeting was held, according to the newspaper.
Abbas told 20 Israeli leftist artists and intellectuals about the meeting with Barak when he met with them Monday in Ramallah; journalists attended the meeting.
Barak’s meeting with Abbas came a month after one scheduled between Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres was canceled reportedly at Peres’ request. Peres and Abbas reportedly had met at least three times prior to the canceled meeting.
Abbas told the Israelis that he believed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians could continue in tandem with the U.N. bid.
“We are not interested in doing damage to Israel but rather in living in peace as neighbors,” Abbas said. "We are ready at present to return to the negotiating table and discuss all matters, including those core issues.”