The cabinet made the right decision in suspending talks with the Palestinians, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday after a six-hour meeting that ended in a unanimous vote.
“I back the prime minister, who made sure to protect Israel’s interests and national pride and the security of our citizens. We don’t talk to terrorists,” Bennett said.
Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who remained a member of the cabinet despite resigning from his post as home front defense minister, called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “Arafat without the uniform.”
Erdan wrote on Facebook that when Hamas and Fatah announced their reconciliation Wednesday, he felt “a combination of anger and a deep sense that there is no reason to talk to this man.
“As a cabinet member, I am exposed to the endless threats and efforts by Hamas to hurt our soldiers and citizens,” he added. “They are our worst enemies. Hamas terrorists are not human.
Their goal isn’t an agreement or a state. Their declared goal is to put an end to the Zionist enterprise. That’s who Abbas reconciled with.”
“We will not agree to any price for pointless talks with Abbas,” Erdan stated ahead of the meeting. “These aren’t peace talks. They’re attempted blackmail.”
Finance Minister Yair Lapid declined to comment after the cabinet meeting, but on Wednesday night he gave an extensive speech in which he posited that Abbas is not interested in establishing a state, following the agreement with Hamas.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation marks the formation of a terrorist government that seeks to destroy Israel.
“Abbas, the Holocaust denier who embraces murderers and praises terrorists, formed a treaty with the arch-terrorist [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh, who put into action suicide bombings that massacred members of our nation,” he added.
The Knesset speaker said he has no doubt the reconciliation will lead to an escalation of violence against Israel, which will cause great suffering to the Palestinians.
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau spoke out in favor of stopping negotiations until all missiles in Gaza are dismantled.
“We must demand that the PA set goals and dates for dismantling missiles in advance.
In addition, we must set sanctions on the PA in case they do not meet those aims or deadlines, like the West did for Syria’s chemical weapons,” Landau said. “Dismantling missiles or dismantling the diplomatic process. That is the only condition for continuing.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor), however, asked: “Does the prime minister really think his decisions are helping Israeli security?” If there is no hope for continued talks, the opposition leader said, then the government must present an alternative to stop the formation of a binational state.
“I, as prime minister, instead of being surprised by events again and again, would once and for all present an Israeli proposal for an accord that would get international backing, with diplomatic and security guarantees,” Herzog added.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On said the cabinet decision “revealed the Netanyahu government’s true face – it was looking for a reason to stop negotiations.
“Instead of seeing the reconciliation between the PA and Hamas as an opportunity, they’re punishing Abbas, setting sanctions on the PA and giving a prize to Hamas,” she added.
Gal-On pointed out that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Lapid both “justified sitting in this bad and fanatical government to promote a peace treaty,” and that both turned out to be supporters of “right-wing settler extremism by Bennett and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Liberman and company just so they can stay in their seats, betraying the trust of their voters.”
Meanwhile, MK Nachman Shai (Labor) called for the cabinet to bring its decision to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee immediately.
“Significant moves with long-term ramifications are being made by the government and the cabinet without supervision and reports to the Knesset,” Shai explained. “Israel is a parliamentary democracy with the Knesset at its heart. Today’s decision raises doubts as to whether someone remembers that.”