(photo credit: Courtesy)
US special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, responded Thursday morning to the recently-struck Palestinian unity deal, backing up Israel in its stance on negotiations with a future, Hamas-run Palestinian government in the West Bank and in Gaza.
"All parties agree that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine, and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there," Greenblatt wrote.
"The United States reiterates the importance of adherence to the Quartet principles: any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations. If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements."
Israel's security cabinet announced earlier this week that it would not negotiate with a Hamas-run Gaza until the terror group answers a list of Jerusalem's demands. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced after the deal emerged this week that Israel will not hold talks unless Hamas recognizes Israel and stops terrorist activities, in accordance with Quartet principles established more than a decade ago, which Greenblatt referenced in his own statement.
Netanyahu also posed that Hamas must be disarmed, the bodies of Israeli soldiers and the Israeli citizens held by Hamas must be returned, and the Palestinian Authority must assume full security control over the Gaza Strip – including at the border crossings where it must prevent the smuggling of arms into the coastal strip.
The other conditions set by the security cabinet for continued diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians are that it continue to thwart Hamas terrorist activity and the building of terrorist infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, that Hamas be cut off from Iran, and that funds and humanitarian supplies will flow into Gaza only through the PA and other internationally recognized mechanisms set up for this purpose.
After a decade-long rift, Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement in Cairo
that concluded with the decision that Hamas will cede control of Gaza to the PA.
While both Israel and the US have addressed Hamas' hostile history in their reactions to this agreement, the issue of Hamas's armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, has not been fully covered in the agreement between the rivaling factions.
However, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said that he would not accept a scenario in which Hamas’s armed wing maintains control of its weapons. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders have said that their armed wing’s weapons are not up for discussion.
On December 1, the PA is expected to take control of Gaza.
Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett was the first Israeli official to respond to Greenblatt's comments. "I want to congratulate Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt and the US Administration for their clear message: The Palestinian government must disarm terror groups and recognize the State of Israel," Bennett stated Wednesday morning.
He also used the opportunity to reiterate Israel's standpoint. "Also, I want to emphasize our Government's stance: Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government supported by a terror organization until Hamas disarms, Israel is recognized and our citizens and fallen soldiers are returned to Israel," he added.
He was joined in his remarks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he was ''glad'' that Greenblattt ''clearly stated that Hamas must disarm'' and ''made it clear that any Palestinian government must be committed to these [Quartet] principles.''
Hamas official Bassem Naim responded to Greenblatt's statement with dismay, calling it a "blatant interference in Palestinian affairs." Speaking to AFP Thursday afternoon, Naim said that "This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests."Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.