Israel Rejects Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation

Netanyahu, Clinton, Abbas
Hillary Clinton, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas

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Israeli officials “rejected” a Palestinian government of national unity between secular Fatah and Islamist Hamas after a meeting of Israel’s security cabinet on Thursday.The Israeli cabinet refused to engage in peace talks with any government that includes Hamas. Ynetnews reports:

“If the situation changes and Hamas alters its ways and recognises Israel, then we’ll see,” a political source said. “In the meantime there will be no talks or negotiations with the Palestinians until the picture becomes clearer.”

Netanyahu expressed outrage Wednesday with the deal formed in Cairo, and said Abbas must decide on “either peace with us or with Hamas”.

President Shimon Peres also called on Abbas not to sign a deal with Hamas. “The agreement between Fatah and the terrorist organisation of Hamas is a fatal mistake which will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and destroy the chances of achieving peace and stability in the region,” he said.    

Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni expressed reservation about the deal as well. “It is still unclear what the terms of this agreement will be, but the test of the Palestinian government will be the acceptance of the international community’s conditions,” she said. “A Palestinian government will have to accept the Quartet’s conditions if it intends to keep peace with Israel.”

Observers note that the Hamas-Fatah unity pact gives Netanyahu political cover for denying recognition to an independent state of Palestine. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

The prospect of a Hamas-Fatah government allows Mr. Netanyahu to argue that the international community shouldn’t give its blessing to a state run at least in part by a terrorist group that doesn’t recognise past peace accords – or even Israel itself. But he faces a challenge: the West sees reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas as a prerequisite for peace and sometimes portrays Israel as obstructionist for taking firm stances on issues like settlement expansion.

“The PLO-Hamas rapprochement will be a boost for Netanyahu – albeit in the short term. He can say that [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas is now in with a group that doesn’t recognise Israel’s right to exist,” says Meir Javedanfar, a Middle East analyst based in Tel Aviv. “Israel is going to be forced to show compromises due to the higher credibility which the international community seems to be giving to the Palestinian side, especially the PLO under Abbas.”

The unity pact has received a mixed response from the international community. Russia appears to be in favour of the reconciliation, but the EU has said that it needs to “study the details” of the unity pact and that it expected Fatah to call the shots, according to Haaretz.

Meanwhile, U.S. House Foreign Affairs chairwoman, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen released a statement saying:

…U.S. taxpayer funds should not and must not be used to support those who threaten U.S. security, our interests, and our vital ally, Israel.

According to existing U.S. law, such a hybrid government cannot be a recipient of U.S. taxpayer funds because the law stipulates that the PA government must recognise the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist, among other things

Hamas and Fatah are expected to sign the unity agreement in Cairo next Wednesday. Abbas is expected to approve the unity cabinet’s makeup and the guidelines on which the government would operate.