JERUSALEM, Israel -- Member of Knesset Zahava Gal-On, chairwoman of the ultra-left-wing Meretz Party, made a much-publicized visit to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Sunday.
Gal-On told the press she arranged the meeting to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
At the meeting, she praised Abbas as a key partner in the peace process, the Palestinian Ma'an new agency reported, while saying the Netanyahu government is no peace partner.
Gal-On's visit comes weeks before Abbas plans to retry for unilateral statehood recognition at the United Nations, this time before the General Assembly. Abbas told the Meretz delegation his upcoming U.N. statehood bid was meant to preserve the two-state solution.
Gal-On also criticized Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's recent call for Abbas to resign, calling it "embarrassing."
Abbas agreed, saying Lieberman "and the government he belongs to are doing everything they can to eliminate the peace process."
Lieberman last week asked the Quartet -- U.S., E.U., U.N. And Russia -- to press the Palestinian Authority to hold elections, calling Abbas' policies "an obstacle" to the peace process.
At a joint press conference following the meeting, senior P.A. negotiator Saeb Erekat, who appeared with Gal-On instead of Abbas, slammed Lieberman's "racist" remarks.
A spokesman for the foreign minister responded to Erekat's accusations by noting that Abbas "devotes all his time as P.A. chairman to diplomatic terror against Israel and to ensuring the failure of any chance for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians."
Meanwhile, Kadima MK Otniel Schneller also criticized the meeting, saying "Gal-On and her friends from the radical left, with their blunt and blind positions on the Palestinians, have deliberately chosen to ignore the government's efforts to promote genuine dialogue and thus continue to hurt the chances for peace."
Meretz, which sits in the opposition with Kadima, Labor and the three Arab Israeli parties, holds just three seats in the current Knesset.