LONDON – The signing of the Hamas-Fatah unity deal in Cairo is a setback for
peace – and an advancement for terrorism – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
told reporters in London on Wednesday.
“What happened today in Cairo is a
tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism,” he said. “Three
days ago, terrorism was dealt a resounding defeat with the elimination of Osama
bin Laden. Today, in Cairo, it had a victory.”
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In signing this deal,
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had “embraced” an organization
that had condemned the American operation against the al-Qaida leader and called
him a “great martyr,” the prime minister said.
“When he embraces this
organization, which is committed to Israel’s destruction and fires rockets on
our cities, this is a tremendous setback for peace and a great advancement for
terror,” Netanyahu said.
“What we hope will happen is that we find peace,
and the only way we can make peace is with our neighbors who want peace. Those
who want to eliminate us, those who practice terror, are not partners for
He spoke before a meeting set for late Wednesday night with
British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Israeli officials said Netanyahu
hoped to persuade Cameron to promise that the UK would not support the deal
unless Hamas accepted the three principles set out by the Quartet for
international recognition of the Islamist movement: that Hamas recognize Israel,
renounce terrorism and abide by the PLO’s agreements with Israel.
refused to do so.
On Thursday, Netanyahu is expected to make the same
request when he meets with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that Ban had always
supported efforts for Palestinian unity, but wanted them to play out within the
framework of the Quartet’s principles – and urged all Palestinian factions to
adhere to them.
Still, he sent Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator
for the Middle East peace process, to Cairo for Wednesday’s ceremony.
European Union was even more cautious about supporting the Fatah-Hamas agreement
and sent only a councilor from its embassy in Cairo.
The US did not have
any formal representative at the ceremony.
Speaking on Channel 2 on
Wednesday evening, Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair gave a plug for
Palestinian unity, but only with certain conditions attached.
He said he
was “in favor of Palestinian unity. It is essential for peace, but it must be
unity on the right terms; it must be genuine unity.”
however, that the contrasting Palestinian reactions to the killing by US forces
of Osama bin Laden earlier this week “expresses what the issue is” regarding the
worrying aspects of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement.
Minister Salam] Fayyad said the death was good news and [Hamas Prime Minister
Ismail] Haniyeh said he [bin Laden] was a ‘warrior.’” “If Hamas was changing...
in peaceful means... this would be positive... but you just need to look at
Haniyeh’s comments” to understand this has not been the case, Blair
As for Netanyahu’s comments that the agreement was “a victory for
terror,” Blair said, “I think the reaction of the Israeli government is
justified. For us in the international community, the door is open to come into
this [peace] process – but only if conditions are made.”
Israel’s decision to stop transferring tax funds to the PA, now that Hamas is
joining the PA government.
“In respect to the [tax] revenue made on
behalf of the Palestinians, it should be given to them,” Blair said.
also reiterated his objection to a unilateral Palestinian declaration of
“The only way you will get a Palestinian state is by
negotiation,” Blair said.
But Netanyahu’s largest coalition partner,
Israel Beiteinu, said on Wednesday that the time for negotiations had passed. It
announced that in light of the agreement between Fatah and Hamas, it would
demand that the government cease all contact between Israel and the PA. The
party called to stop various inter-ministerial initiatives with the PA, as well
as the transfer of money to its government.
“It is impossible to expect
the State of Israel to transfer money to Hamas – and in doing so, to fund
terrorism activities against Israel’s citizens,” Beiteinu said.
who declared bin Laden to be a Muslim freedom fighter, as Hamas Prime Minister
Ismail Haniyeh did, and those who refuse to allow the Red Cross to visit Gilad
Schalit cannot be partners in negotiations, either directly or
Separately, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel
Beiteinu), who is in Eastern Europe, called on the European Union to threaten
the Palestinians with financial consequences, should they fail to follow the
“As the largest funders of the Palestinian
Authority, you have a heavy responsibility to make it clear to the Palestinians
that failure to comply with the Quartet’s conditions will be met with
sanctions,” Ayalon said.
He spoke after meeting with Estonian Foreign
Minister Urmas Paet.
Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.