Hamas would consider recognition of Israel, a spokesperson for the terror group said Saturday, as peace efforts teetered over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent reconciliation with the organization.
Taher Nunu, a media adviser to Hamas in Gaza head Ismail Haniyeh, told The Washington Post that Hamas had not ruled out recognizing Israel.
The decision would be made in the framework of the group’s efforts to join the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is managing peace negotiations with Israel, as part of the new reconciliation effort, Nunu said.
The statement came hours after Abbas, seeking to calm fears in Jerusalem and Washington over the unity pact between his Fatah party and Hamas, said that the Palestinian leadership would continue to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
Israeli and American officials expressed fears after the reconciliation was announced Wednesday that Jerusalem would be left to negotiate a peace treaty with a terror group that does not recognize its right to exist.
Hamas has never recognized Israel and its charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. The group, which has ruled Gaza since a 2007 falling out with Fatah, is held responsible by Jerusalem for frequent rocket fire on Israel’s south. Both the US and Israel consider Hamas a terror group.
On Thursday, a cabinet of top ministers announced they would not continue peace talks with the Palestinians, slated to end Tuesday after nine months, if Hamas was in the Palestinian government, and threatened other measures.
Officials in Washington reportedly threatened to cut off aid to the PA if Hamas joined without renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and committing to previous agreement.
Nunu said that the reconciliation agreement, which calls on Fatah and Hamas to form a technocratic unity government and arrange new elections, was focused on internal Palestinian matters and not outside policy.
Speaking to the PLO’s central council in Ramallah Saturday, Abbas said the unity government would not deal with the negotiations with Israel.
“That is not its concern, that [falls within] the PLO’s authority,” the PA president said. “At the same time, I recognize Israel and it will recognize Israel. I reject violence and it will reject violence. I recognize the legitimacy of international agreements and it will recognize them. The government is committed to what I am committed. No one should claim now that it’s a government of terror.”
On Friday, a senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel that Abbas and Fatah “won’t agree to complete the reconciliation process” unless Hamas agrees to a new government that “accepts the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine — along the 1967 lines.” The new government must also “adhere to the conditions of the Middle East Quartet: recognize Israel, ratify all signed agreements and renounce violence,” he said.
On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said US efforts to broker a peace deal had not failed, but were currently in a “holding period” as Palestinians and Israelis decide their next move.
She noted Abbas had insisted that any government formed with Hamas backing would “represent his policies, and that includes recognition of Israel, commitment to non-violence, adherence to prior agreements and commitment to peaceful negotiations toward a two-state solution.”