PM: No negotiations if Hamas joins PA gov't

Netanyahu's comments follow Fatah's decision to incorporate Hamas in PLO; Fatah official threatens to nullify Oslo Accords.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R) (photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R)
(photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Israel will not negotiate with the Palestinian Authority if Hamas joins the PA government, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said unequivocally on Sunday.
Netanyahu’s comments to Israel’s ambassadors and consuls- general gathered for an annual meeting at the Foreign Ministry came just days after Hamas and Fatah made strides toward reconciliation, with Fatah agreeing to incorporate Hamas into the PLO to prepare for new elections for the organization’s two key bodies – the Palestine National Council and Executive Committee.
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Netanyahu also told the diplomats that progress in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians will only be made if Israel were able to have firm security arrangements on the ground, something he acknowledged would be more difficult now since Israel’s security requirements have changed as a result of the dramatic shifts and uncertainties in the region.
Referring to his demand that any future Palestinian state be demilitarized, the prime minister said he was not willing to tolerate a situation where a future state would – like Gaza and southern Lebanon – turn into a missile-launching base against Israel as soon as the IDF withdrew.
Netanyahu repeated to the diplomats that he was willing to meet PA President Mahmoud Abbas without preconditions “any place and any time.” He also reiterated his demand that an agreement would necessitate the Palestinians recognizing Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, but said that was not a precondition to starting talks.
Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee and one of the PA negotiators with Israel, was quoted Sunday as saying the Palestinians may cancel the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel.
His comments were published by the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper. This was not the first time a senior PA official had talked about the possibility of abrogating the Oslo Accords.
In response to a question about Israeli settlements, Shtayyeh said if Netanyahu “insists there is no difference between the settlement of Abu Ghneim [Har Homa] and Tel Aviv, we won’t distinguish between Ramallah and Jaffa.”
With regards to the PLO’s decision to recognize Israel in 1993, Shtayyeh explained: “The recognition of Israel was not a balanced recognition. The PLO recognized Israel in the geographic sense, but Israel did not recognize Palestine geographically, but as an institution. Israel only recognized the PLO. Now we are demanding a mutual recognition. We want Israel to recognize the Palestinian territories of 1967.”
Netanyahu’s Spokesman Mark Regev agreed there was an asymmetry, but said that while Israel had accepted the existence of a Palestinian people with a right to self-determination and a state of its own, the Palestinian leadership stubbornly refuses to admit there is a Jewish people – with a connection to the land – and a right to self determination and a state of its own.
Israeli officials took in stride Shtayyeh’s threat to abrogate the Oslo Accords, saying the PA has a record of engaging in extreme brinkmanship – threatening to quit en masse, or give up working toward two states – hoping thereby to apply pressure on Israel.
Meanwhile, some PLO and Fatah leaders have privately criticized Abbas for agreeing to incorporate Hamas into the PLO.
At least three senior officials in Ramallah have voiced strong reservations over the decision, a Fatah official told The Jerusalem Post. He said those who were opposed to the move were worried that Hamas would replace Fatah as the dominant party in the PLO.
One official was quoted as saying Abbas was paving the way for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to take control not only over the PLO, but the entire West Bank as well.