Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed Sunday that Israel would not deal with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, even as the EU issued a statement supporting Palestinian reconciliation and unity.
The statement, put out by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton five days after the Fatah-Hamas pact upended the diplomatic process, stressed that any new Palestinian government must uphold the principle of nonviolence, remain committed to a two-state solution and accept Israel’s “legitimate right to exist.”
Jerusalem is concerned that these types of formulas that say that a Palestinian government must affirm these principles – not that Hamas, which will be a part of the government, must do so – will open a back door to Hamas’s participation in a government of “technocrats.”
Netanyahu, in an interview with CBS, said this was a nonstarter for Israel, and that Israel would not engage with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, regardless of whether Hamas officials actually sat around the cabinet table.
In the interview Netanyahu addressed the claim that peace is made with enemies, by saying, “You want to make peace with an enemy, but only with an enemy that’s decided to make peace. An enemy that seeks your destruction – what are we going to talk about? The method of our self-annihilation? I mean, it just doesn’t make sense.”
Netanyahu also confronted the argument that this was the time to engage Hamas, since it was at its weakest point in years.
“If al-Qaida is weak, you don’t say, ‘Well, let’s bring al-Qaida into the tent’ and begin to negotiate with them,” Netanyahu said.
“There are some groups, some movements and some organizations that you do not negotiate with. You [the US] don’t negotiate with al-Qaida, political negotiations. We don’t negotiate with Hamas, as long as they seek our destruction.”
Netanyahu said both he and US Secretary of State John Kerry were “absolutely stupefied” that PA President Mahmoud Abbas embraced Hamas.
The day before the announcement of reconciliation, Netanyahu said he spoke to Kerry after a negotiating session between the Israeli and Palestinian teams and “we were remarking on the fact that we made some progress, and then the next day, we were both shocked – there’s no other word.”
If Netanyahu had hoped for support for this position from the EU, it was not to be found in Ashton’s statement.
The EU, she said, has “consistently supported intra-Palestinian reconciliation, but on clear and certain terms.”
She defined the terms as following: “The EU expects any new government to uphold the principle of nonviolence, to remain committed to achieving a two-state solution and to a negotiated peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, accepting previous agreements and obligations, including Israel’s legitimate right to exist.”
Her phrasing of these conditions was a bit different from the way the Quartet phrased those conditions in a 2007 statement: “All members of a future Palestinian government must be committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap.”
The main difference, one official pointed out, was that in the 2007 version there was a direct call for the recognition of Israel, while in Ashton’s formulation it was subsumed under accepting previous agreements.
Ashton said that the EU welcomed “the prospect of genuine democratic elections for all Palestinians.
The fact that President Abbas will remain fully in charge of the negotiation process and have a mandate to negotiate in the name of all Palestinians provides further assurance that the peace negotiations can and must proceed.”
The EU, along with the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and Egypt, has classified Hamas a terrorist organization and said it will not engage with the group until it accepts the international community’s three conditions.
Despite reports from time to time that some representatives of European countries have met in various capacities with Hamas officials, these conditions have for the most part kept the EU from dealing with Hamas since it won PA elections in 2006.
Ashton said she was “extremely concerned at recent developments related to the peace process, which are putting into question the continued negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians beyond the original deadline” of April 29.
Ashton reiterated the EU’s “full support to the US-brokered peace efforts” and called on “both parties to remain focused on negotiations and on the unprecedented benefits which peace can bring. Negotiations are the best way forward.
The extensive efforts deployed in recent months must not go to waste.”