RAMALLAH, West Bank – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held a rare meeting Sunday with dozens of Israeli lawmakers, ex-generals and peace activists, urging them to tell the Israeli public that he opposes violence and is committed to reaching a peace deal.

The outreach, over a lunch of meat and rice at Abbas’ West Bank headquarters, appeared aimed at generating domestic pressure on Israel’s hardline prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at a time when U.S.-led peace efforts seem hopelessly bogged down.

Many of the Israeli participants were veterans of two decades of failed peace efforts and exchanged hugs and greetings with their Palestinian counterparts. However, the visitors also included some from Israel’s nationalist camp, including activists from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, a confidant of the founder of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party and several ultra-Orthodox journalists.

After the speeches, the Israelis excitedly crowded around Abbas to talk and have their pictures taken.

Binyamin Lipkin, editor of an ultra-Orthodox newspaper, said he felt Abbas was sincere and that he would deliver the president’s message to his readers. “He is the last remaining partner for Israel,” Lipkin said.

In recent months, Abbas has pushed to directly reach the Israeli public and has also met with Jewish American leaders. In the Israeli media, the Palestinian president is often portrayed as a well-meaning but weak leader who cannot deliver a peace deal.