Fatah official Nabil Shaath (L) and Hamas deputy political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The PA cannot reconcile with Hamas at Israel’s expense, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday in his first reaction to the latest unity deal between the Palestinian factions.
Netanyahu told the Likud faction in Ma’aleh Adumim that as part of its reconciliation the Palestinian Authority must insist on Hamas recognizing Israel, dismantling its military wing and breaking off ties with Iran.
“We expect everyone who talks about a peace process to recognize the State of Israel and, of course, the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said. “We cannot accept fake reconciliation on the Palestinian side that comes at the expense of our existence.”
Sources close to Netanyahu said they were worried a deal between Fatah and Hamas would lead to Hamas and its Iranian patron gaining a foothold in the West Bank, which could make the security situation more challenging. They also warned that with Hamas no longer in control of Gaza it could return to acting solely as a terrorist group and not as a sovereign that must take responsibility.
Hamas is trying to gain international legitimacy without accepting Israel’s right to exist, without disarming and without accepting the Quartet principles, while remaining a ruthless, mass-murdering terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s destruction, a source close to Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu made the statement hours after Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett demanded the security cabinet convene to discuss the Palestinian reconciliation. Bennett intends to ask the security cabinet to immediately stop transferring tax money to the PA because of its deal with Hamas and joining of Interpol.
“Israel must stop being terrorism’s ATM,” Bennett said. "This isn't about Palestinian reconciliation but about [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas joining forces with a murderous terrorist organization.
Transferring money to a Hamas government is akin to transferring funds from Israel to Islamic State. Rockets will be fired at us in return.”
Bennett said Israel must make clear that three conditions need to be met for the money to be transferred: The return of the bodies of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin; Hamas’s recognition of Israel and ending of incitement; and the PA ending all payments to terrorists imprisoned in Israel.
One eve of Gaza reconciliation, Hamas frees Fatah men, October 1, 2017. (Reuters)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman downplayed the reconciliation, saying Fatah and Hamas were merely playing what he called a “blame game” in which the sides were looking to blame each other for another deal between them not getting implemented. He said both sides were merely trying to impress their Palestinian constituents by seeking unity but that they no longer have enough in common to reach an agreement.
Security cabinet ministers Israel Katz and Gilad Erdan (both Likud) also said Hamas must change its spots completely by renouncing terrorism or Israel should not deal with the new Palestinian government.
Another security cabinet minister, Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) made news Tuesday when he openly criticized the policies of US President Donald Trump on Israel and the Palestinians.
The context of the criticism was a plan to build Jewish housing in Hebron, which Elkin is pushing and the Americans reportedly oppose.
“This [the Trump] administration feels comfortable changing commitments of the Obama government on issues like climate change but for some reason on issues related to us they continue the same outlook that construction over the Green Line is a negative Israeli step,” Elkin told Yediot Aharonot.
Responding to Netanyahu’s statement, MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) retorted with his own harsh comments concerning the Palestinian attempts to end the rift.
“Those who resist the inner-Palestinian reconciliation are those who resist peace,” he said. “Netanyahu is trying to fuel the inner rift in the Palestinian leadership to be able to claim that he does not have a partner to negotiate with because there is no one body that represents the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.”
Odeh continued: “The reconciliation and unity of the struggle of the Palestinian people will help tear the mask off the face of the prime minister and expose the fact that he is [at the helm] of refusing peace and a historic compromise.”