The Palestinian unity government with Hamas will be announced on Monday “despite Israeli threats,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Taher a-Nunu said the “reconciliation train was about to arrive at its final station,” and will mark the beginning of the restoration of Palestinian unity.
The unification ends a seven- year feud between Fatah and Hamas but appears to place a final nail in the coffin of the US-led peace process.
“We will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas,” an Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post and added that the United States supported this position.
“We have a commitment from the Americans, a commitment that was reiterated in the first Obama administration and was reiterated in the second,” the official said.
“Hamas believes the State of Israel should be destroyed. They are very open about it,” he added.
“If Abbas forms a pact with those extremists, he is associating himself with their extremist politics and not with the politics of peace,” the official said.
The US has not stated its position on the unification and its impact on future talks.
“As we’ve said all along, we’ll not make decisions until we see the final formation of the interim government and have the opportunity to assess and make a determination about whether this is a government we can work with. We will base that assessment on the government’s composition, policies and actions,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Friday.
Abbas told a visiting French delegation in his office in Ramallah on Saturday that Israel has threatened to boycott the PA because of the unity government with Hamas.
”Hamas is part of our people,” Abbas said. “Today they [Israel] informed us that they will boycott us if we form a unity government,” he said.
“But we will announce the government on Monday and it will consist of independent figures who don’t belong to Hamas or Fatah.”
Abbas said the unity government would have the same policies as his.
“The government will endorse whatever we endorse,” he said. “It will recognize Israel and its international legitimacy.
So why is Israel opposing this government?” He also warned Israel against withholding tax revenues belonging to the PA in response to the formation of the unity government.
Israel has publicly stated that it will hold Abbas accountable for Hamas violence against its people, including rockets launched from Gaza. It has spoken of measures against the PA, but has not stated what they will be.
On Thursday, US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry said they have not given up on the possibility of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. They spoke about the peace process and their hope for the future.
“I have not yet given up on the possibility that both Israelis and Palestinians can see their self-interest in a peace deal that would provide Israel security that’s recognized by its neighbors and make sure that Palestinians have a state of their own,” Obama said in an interview on NPR.
But he did not address the issue of the newly emerging Fatah-Hamas government.
Since the US-led peace talks fell apart at the end of April, speculation has been high that America has pulled back and has refocused its energies elsewhere.
Obama did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a major peace address he delivered on Wednesday at Annapolis.
But on Thursday, he and Kerry spoke of their hope that peace could still be achieved.
“I don’t believe that in the Middle East either party can afford to simply maintain the status quo and believe that there’s a road to greater stability and to peace without reengaging and without coming back at some point in time to the negotiating process,” Kerry said in an interview with PBS. He said that Abbas was prepared to return to the negotiating table if certain conditions were met, but he did not specify what those conditions were.
“Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu and Israel are waiting to see what happens with the Hamas reconciliation, with the announcement of a new government, with the question of what that new government may or may not choose to do. That’s an appropriate thing to be doing. We’re all waiting to see what happens,” Kerry said.
He said that he did not think the status quo was sustainable: “So eventually, there’ll have to be some discussion about some management of that process. Whether it’s a full-blown peace process or whether it’s individual steps or not.”
Israel would be more secure if a peace deal is concluded with the Palestinians, Kerry said, adding that similarly “Palestinian rights and ability to have a state can only come through some kind of political process.
“So my job is to push it forward. My job is to try to find the optimism and the possibilities, not to give up and I refuse to give up. I think that we have to find the way ahead. This hasn’t gone away in 40, 50 years, and it’s not going to suddenly just sort of solve itself. That’s our job, to try to push the process forward,” he said.