Netanyahu slams Fatah-Hamas unity efforts

Prime minister announces trip to Moscow next week, set to protest Russian missile sales to Syria; compares Hamas to al-Qaida.

Netanyahu 311 reuters (photo credit: Reuters)
Netanyahu 311 reuters
(photo credit: Reuters)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came out on Thursday squarely against Palestinian national unity efforts, asking how the Palestinian Authority can be “for peace with Israel and peace with Hamas that calls for our destruction.”
Netanyahu’s comments in a CNN interview broadcast Thursday night represent his first public statements on the enhanced attempts in recent weeks – in light of the revolutions washing over the Arab world – to forge Palestinian reconciliation.
Video: PM rethinks nuclear power plans after Japan crisis
Abbas prepared to visit Gaza to heal relations with Hamas
“Can you imagine a peace deal with al-Qaida?” Netanyahu asked his interviewer, Piers Morgan. “Of course not.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced Wednesday that he was ready to go to Gaza for the first time in four years to hold talks with Hamas leaders. On Tuesday tens of thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank and Gaza as part of a Facebook campaign calling for an end to the Hamas- Fatah split.
Netanyahu’s comments came amid what one government source said was the hope in Jerusalem that the current instability in the region has led to a “greater international understanding of Israel’s security requirements” under any future agreement.
Diplomatic sources said that the recent upheavals in the Arab world, as well as the release in February by Al Jazeera of the “Palestine Papers” that provided details of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under Ehud Olmert’s government, has led the Palestinians to hunker down in rigid positions. The sources said that this “rigidity” in the Palestinian positions was made clear to Quartet representatives when they met twice over the last three weeks with Saeb Erekat.
The assessments in Jerusalem are that the Palestinians are “not about to move” toward negotiations, and that the regional instability has only “solidified their passivity and decision not to engage directly with Israel.”
With everything going on in the region, and in light of the Al Jazeera revelations, the PA does not want to be seen as showing flexibility or taking any bold move that requires compromise, afraid of the reaction this would cause on the Palestinian street, according to the assessments.
This is one of a number of issues that Netanyahu is expected to discuss with the Russian leadership next Thursday in Moscow. Netanyahu’s planned visit was announced Thursday.
Both Israeli and Russian officials say that the visit is not the result of any crisis, but rather part of regularly scheduled visits by the leadership of both countries to discuss both bilateral and regional issues.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s planned visit to Jerusalem in January was scuttled by a Foreign Ministry work stoppage, and Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow is seen as an effort to get the bilateral ties between the countries back on track following the postponement of that visit. Medvedev did come to the region at the time, and visited Jericho via Jordan.
It was not yet clear which Russian leaders Netanyahu would meet.
The planned visit comes just three weeks after Russia declared it was going ahead with plans to sell Syria the Yakhont anti-ship cruise missile, and this issue – as well as other security-related topics – is expected to figure prominently in the talks.
It has become customary in recent years for the Israeli prime minister to travel to Russia about once a year. Netanyahu was last in Moscow in February 2010. He has traveled only sparingly over the past few months, the last time being a trip to Egypt in early January for a meeting with Hosni Mubarak, and before that a trip to the US in November.