A special committee headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and set up a week ago by the security cabinet following the establishment of a Palestinian unity government is to hold its first meeting early this week to plan a course of action.
The decision to set up the committee came at the security cabinet meeting last Monday that followed the swearing in of the new Palestinian Authority government.
The security cabinet decided at that meeting that Israel would not negotiate with a Palestinian government with backing from Hamas.
The first meeting on preparing plans on how to deal with the diplomatic and security fall-out resulting from the new reality is expected either Sunday or Monday.
Diplomatic officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, meanwhile, cited a speech Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gave in Gaza on Friday declaring that Hamas would continue its armed resistance as evidence of the extremely problematic nature of the Hamas-Fatah unity pact for Israel.
“Less than a week after the establishment of a unity government between [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas and the Hamas terror organization, one of its head declares what indeed are the goals of the unification,” the officials said. “If Abbas meant what he said this week that he will honor all previous agreements with Israel, he needs to immediately condemn these remarks.”
The government’s policy regarding the new government received a degree of backing on Saturday from an unlikely source: The New York Times.
The Times, which consistently hammers at Netanyahu and the government’s policies, was uncharacteristically charitable in an editorial it ran Saturday, headlined “Israeli-Palestinian collision course.”
Citing the government’s decision not to negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, the paper editorialized that Netanyahu was “correct that Hamas, the Iran-backed group that took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, is a violent, extremist organization committed to Israel’s destruction.”
Explaining to readers that the Palestinian government is “composed of technocrats not affiliated with Hamas or other partisans,” the paper said that Netanyahu “has scoffed at that distinction – and some skepticism is warranted.”
“While Hamas cannot simply be wished away, the United States and other countries that consider Hamas a terrorist group may find it impossible to continue aiding the Palestinians if Hamas plays a more pronounced role,” the paper wrote.
It added that the US “has to be careful to somehow distinguish between its support for the new government and an endorsement of Hamas and its violent, hateful behavior.
To have some hope of doing that, the United States and Europe must continue to insist that Mr. Abbas stick to his promises and not allow Hamas to get the upper hand.”
In addition to the Times, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton – weighing a presidential run in 2016 – gave officials in the Prime Minister’s Office a reason to smile Saturday when a section of her upcoming memoir, Hard Choices, was excerpted in which she acknowledged that US President Barack Obama’s call at the outset of his first term for a complete settlement freeze, including in east Jerusalem, was a tactical error.
“In retrospect, our early, hard line on settlements didn’t work,” she wrote.
Sources close to the prime minister have long claimed that this was a major tactical blunder. Up until then, they maintain, the Palestinians themselves never called for a complete settlement freeze, including in east Jerusalem, but made it a precondition to negotiations once Obama made it his policy.