An embarrassing moment took a heartwarming turn at the Dec. 28 meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his host, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, when the door opened and in walked a uniformed soldier. The soldier was Gantz’s son, who is performing his compulsory military service and was on leave at the family home where the unusual meeting took place. The Palestinian guests froze for a heartbeat, but it was Abbas himself, a man who has seen it all, who broke the ice. “I hope peace comes out of this house,” he was quoted in Israeli media as saying.
The meeting will not produce peace. Not immediately at least. In any case, its goal was primarily to prevent war. It brought Abbas for his first official meeting inside Israeli territory since 2010 (except for partaking in the funeral ceremony for late President Shimon Peres). And not just any territory — a square kilometer fraught with symbolism and history. Gantz’s home lies in the town of Rosh Ha’ayin, adjacent to the Israeli-Arab town of Kafr Qasim, headquarters of the Shura Council, the supreme spiritual body of the Islamic movement in Israel and of its political party Ra’am, the first Arab party ever to join an Israeli governing coalition.