Israeli official: PA must choose between peace and terrorism

Comments come in response to Fatah and Hamas leaders meeting in Gaza ahead of an international donor conference.

October 10, 2014 05:02
2 minute read.
hamdallah Haniyeh

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (R) waves as he hosts PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah at his house in Gaza City October 9, 2014.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel has consistently opposed a Palestinian unity government based on backing from Hamas, and on Thursday night one government official reiterated Jerusalem’s oft-stated policy that “the Palestinian leadership has to choose between the path of peace and the path of terror and extremism. If they move toward Hamas, they are not moving toward peace.”

Israel would like to see the PA assert more authority inside the Gaza Strip, and wants to ensure that money pumped into Gaza for its rehabilitation will go through the PA, not Hamas.

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“Israel has no problem with the PA expanding its presence in Gaza,” the official said. “We do have a problem with Hamas expanding its presence in the West Bank.”

One of Jerusalem’s many concerns about a united Palestinian government is that rather than paving the way for the PA to regain control of the Gaza Strip, it will make it possible for Hamas to eventually take over the West Bank, just as it did in Gaza.

Hamdallah last week appeared to have resolved a core sticking point between the two Palestinian movements when he announced that Qatar would pay a large part of the wages owed to Hamas-hired employees in Gaza with United Nations help. The mechanism of payment, however, remained unclear.

“We have put years of division behind us and we have begun to consolidate reconciliation as a core step to lobby the international community and its influential powers to bear their responsibility towards rebuilding Gaza, which requires lifting the unjust [Israeli] blockade,” Hamdallah said.

Israel has clamped a naval blockade on Gaza to prevent the smuggling of arms and building materials used to burrow attack tunnels into Israel, as well as build a homegrown rocket-manufacturing industry.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrived in the Gaza Strip on Thursday and convened the first meeting of a Palestinian Authority government there since Hamas overthrew Fatah and the PA and took control of the region in 2007.

Dozens of Fatah security personnel loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas and policemen from the Hamasled Interior Ministry in Gaza were out in force to protect Hamdallah, who did a walkpast inspection of a police guard of honor.

“I come to you representing President Mahmoud Abbas and, as head of the government of national consensus, to assume our responsibilities, see your needs and launch a comprehensive workshop to salvage Gaza and bring relief to our people here,” he said.

Hamdallah’s presence in Gaza may encourage donor countries to pledge funds to rebuild Gaza, which he has estimated will cost $4 billion over the next three years.

“I have wept in Beit Hanun when I saw how people are living and where they are sleeping,” Hamdallah said. “I hope the donor conference will be a success and that money donated will be enough so we can immediately begin the rebuilding.”

Palestinian parties agreed last month that the unity government would assume immediate authority over Gaza before an international aid conference set for October 12 in Cairo. The two sides agreed to form a joint cabinet in May.

Donors have for years been wary of giving aid to Gaza as long as Hamas rules there.

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