Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday night urged visiting American
lawmakers to send a clear message to the Palestinian Authority not to join in a
unity government with Hamas.
The Palestinians have to make a choice for
peace or a choice to go with Hamas, Netanyahu told a bipartisan delegation lead
by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).RELATED:
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The international community
has to encourage the Palestinians to make the right choice and to let them know
that there are negative consequences to a union with Hamas, Netanyahu
The group of eight representatives are in Israel for two days as
part of a Middle East trip that also included a visit to Iraq.
with Netanyahu in his Jerusalem office ahead of of the prime minister’s trip to
the United States later this month, where he is expected to meet with US
President Barack Obama and address a joint meeting of Congress.
been high that the US trip would be a prelude to a breakthrough in the peace
process. But last week’s signing of a unity deal between Fatah and Hamas has
doused such expectations.
Israel has said that it will not negotiate with
a newly unified Fatah-Hamas government that does not accept the Quartet’s three
principles: renunciation of terror, recognition of Israel and the acceptance of
It is very important for the US and the international
community to speak clearly about these three benchmarks, Netanyahu told the
He spoke on the same day that a visiting delegation
from the Jewish American non-governmental group J Street visited Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Abbas told the group that
he wanted to make peace with Israel.
If there was diplomatic progress
toward peace, he said, then the Palestinians would postpone their plan to
unilaterally seek statehood from the United Nations in September.
progress was recorded in negotiations, September would become a meaningless
deadline because our preference is a peace process,” Abbas was quoted by Army
Radio as saying.
Steve Krubiner, who is J Street’s Israel and
international programs director and who sat in on the meeting with Abbas, said
the statement came in response to a question raised by the left-leaning advocacy
“We asked him directly: If a credible plan were put on the table
to bring you back to the negotiations, how would that effect September?”
Krubiner said over the phone from Ramallah.
“He said his number one
preference is negotiations and the UN route is a fallback.”
A threat by
members of the US Congress to cut off aid to the PA if Hamas is part of the
Palestinian government was also raised during the meeting, Krubiner
“Abbas said he believed such an action would have a effect counter
than intended and [would] strengthen Hamas,” Krubiner said. “He [Abbas] said the
new government coalition would be technocratic and would not include individuals
affiliated with either party.”
Krubiner said the parameters mentioned by
Abbas for restarting talks were the same as those put forward several months ago
by Western countries involved in the negotiations.
“A two or three month
settlement freeze might bring him back at the table,” he said. “If I were Israel
or America, I would test it.”
Israeli officials asked in response that if
Abbas wanted peace, why did he enter a coalition with Hamas, which has refused
to accept the Quartet’s principles and is still dedicated to destroying
There is a clear distinction between Abbas’s words and his
actions, one official said.
“If he breaks his pact with Hamas, the door
is open to negotiations and to an immediate resumption of the peace process. But
he cannot tell foreign audiences that he is serious about peace while embracing
the most violent and extreme enemies of peace,” the official said.
past, Israel had refused to cede to the Palestinian demand for a full settlement
freeze, including in east Jerusalem. It had, however, imposed a 10-month
moratorium on new settlements construction.
The move brought the
Palestinians back to the negotiating table only in the last weeks of the
moratorium. Palestinians left the talks when Israel refused to extend the
On Sunday morning, Netanyahu told the cabinet that Israel would
not talk with the new Palestinian Hamas government unless it accepted the
Quartet’s three principles. He said he had stressed this point to British Prime
Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his trip to
London and Paris last week.
He clarified, “If this [Fatah- Hamas] union
was for peace, we would support it. However, it pushes us away from peace and,
in effect, the PA is accepting into its ranks a body that is committed to our
destruction in word, deed and in its armament program. This is a move
that is very anti-peace.”
Netanyahu added that it was his impression that
the actions which Israel took as soon as the PA-Hamas agreement became known, as
well as his talks in London and Paris, had succeeded to a certain degree in
blocking the wave of support that the Palestinians had received in many
countries prior to the unity deal.
But earlier this week, J Street
founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami advocated a different approach, saying he
believed the new unity government should be given a trial period until its
policy toward Israel is determined.
“Jumping out to say either this is a
terrible thing or a good thing is in our opinion not the wisest move, and the
real question is what this new alignment is really going to stand for and what
is it going to do, and that we don’t know,” he told The Jerusalem
The J Street delegation, which arrived in Israel this week, was
scheduled to meet with several other politicians in addition to Abbas, including
President Shimon Peres, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, opposition leader
Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
delegation consists of 25 board members and donors.
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