Israeli ministers and officials expressed skepticism on Thursday about the announced Hamas-Fatah unity government.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the agreement between the Palestinian factions has "dramatic potential" but it is doubtful that it will mature into a joint government.
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Barak admitted that Israeli intelligence had foreseen a low probability for a reconciliation agreement between the two factions, and noted that Palestinian officials were also skeptical about it.
The defense minister also reiterated Israel's position that it would not hold any discussions with Hamas, "a murderous organization whose aim is to destroy Israel."
However, he said that if a joint Palestinian government were to rise, Israel would hold talks with the new government only if Hamas would dismantle its terrorist infrastructure and recognize Israel and previous agreements made with the PLO.
Speaking to international media, President Shimon Peres on Thursday said that "We would like to see the Palestinian people unite, but unite for peace. What happened yesterday [the unity deal] is a path that will lead to a clear disagreement: One Palestinian camp will call for peace, the other will call for the destruction of Israel."
"Hamas isn't changing its charter, hasn't ceased to be a terrorist organization, serves Iran and smuggles weapons," Peres said.
In light of this, he said Fatah's move to unite with Hamas is a "fatal mistake."
"Signing an agreement that will lead to elections in a year could result in a terrorist organization controlling Gaza and the West Bank, and Hamas's policies will win. This means the continued firing of rockets, the continued killing of innocent people, and continued Iranian intervention that supports and funds terrorism in our region," the president said.
In a personal call to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Peres said, "I urge the Palestinian leadership: Unite for peace and don't put on a facade of unity that will prevent you from moving in any direction. Walking hand-in-hand with a terrorist organization will be a step backwards and will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state."
Peres also turned to the international community, saying "The world cannot support the establishment of a state part of whose government is a terrorist organization in every respect."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also commented on the unity agreement on Thursday, saying the deal means that terrorists will launch missiles from the West Bank.
"A red line has been crossed, and Israel must decide what we are going to do," Lieberman told Israel Radio. "Hundreds of terrorists from Hamas will go free throughout Judea and Samaria.
"The international community should enforce the terms it gave the Palestinians: abandoning terror, recognizing Israel, and respecting previous agreements," Lieberman said.
He also explained that the agreement between the two Palestinian
factions came because of "panic" on both sides. Hamas is concerned that
their "patron," Syrian President Bashar Assad, is facing a crisis, and
Fatah no longer has the support of former Egyptian president Hosni
Mubarak, Lieberman explained.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni denounced Hamas, but hoped the unity government would agree to return to the negotiating table.
"Hamas is a terror organization that represents an extremist ideology that does not recognize Israel's right to exist or previous agreements with Israel," Livni said in a statement.
"Any Palestinian government will have to accept the Quartet's conditions and work for peace with Israel. This is the time for Israel and the PA to make decisions; it will be a test," she added.
Livni also said that "unilateral steps are not the way to solve the conflict. Founding a Palestinian State could only be done through an agreement with Israel that will be reached through negotiations."
Education Minister Gideon Saar, a member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Security Cabinet, also commented on the Hamas-Fatah unity deal.
"The treaty drawn between Fatah and Hamas shows that all the Palestinians, who previously had abandoned negotiations and planned unilateral actions against Israel, are distancing themselves from peace and getting closer to extremists and enemies of Israel," Saar said.
Saar added that the unity treaty only shows "the need to prevent from returning to previous policies that combined fantasies and withdrawals."
Kadima MK Nachman Shai called the Hamas-Fatah agreement Prime Minister Netanyahu's "great failure."
"Netanyahu failed to understand the strategic changes in the Arab world
and their implications on the Palestinians. The unity between Hamas and
Fatah produces a new political and security reality, which surprises
Israel and forces it to present a new political program that is not
under the control of the prime minister. The result is that the road to
international recognition of a unilaterally-declared Palestinian state
is open," Shai said in a statement.
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