The cabinet’s unanimous decision to halt peace talks with the Palestinians drew support from hawkish politicians on Thursday evening, while left-wing MKs denounced the move for being “hypocritical” and “cowardly.”
Israel announced the suspension of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Wednesday’s announcement of a unity agreement between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.
Following Thursday’s ministerial meeting, Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett called the decision “balanced and correct.”
“I back the prime minister who took care to protect the correct interests of Israeli national honor and security for the citizens of Israel,” he said. “There is no negotiating with murderers.”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) echoed Bennett’s remarks, saying that just as every Western country with “national honor” boycotted terrorists, so too Israel maintained that terror must be fought, not negotiated with.
Left-wing Meretz leader, MK Zahava Gal-on, castigated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for panning the partnership between Fatah and Hamas, as he himself had forged written accords with the Gazan terror group in past years to maintain peace in southern Israel. She also said Netanyahu had released more terrorists to Hamas than the number of prisoners whose freedom Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been seeking to secure. This was a reference to the release of over 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners in the deal that freed kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from five years of Hamas captivity in October 2011.
“In general, under his leadership, Israel treats Hamas as a more serious partner than those in the Palestinian leadership who do not support violence. So now it’s forbidden to talk to those Netanyahu has already conversed with for four years? What hypocrisy,” Gal-on wrote in a statement posted to Facebook.
Halting peace talks is “a huge reward for Hamas and a punishment to the citizens of Israel,” she wrote. “What’s even worse is that the cabinet members refuse to believe that an agreement with the Palestinians is first and foremost a strategic interest for Israel. As if we have the privilege of being choosy as to who we talk to on the Palestinian side. They’re extremists? So we’ll talk to them until they become moderate.”
Gal-on said that a “government of cowards that cannot act for Israel’s interests is not worthy of continuing to lead.”
Labor Party MK Omer Bar-Lev said the prime minister and his cabinet had reacted with “the panic of the weak,” and that chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid “broke a new record today in cowardice.”
The top-level inner cabinet of Netanyahu’s ministers “decided unanimously that it will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that incorporates Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel,” a statement said after an emergency meeting that lasted throughout Thursday afternoon.
“Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen [Abbas] made a deal with a murderous terror organization that calls for the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu said after the meeting.
Hamas appeals to Muslims to kill Jews, has fired over 10,000 rockets at Israel, and “has not ceased for a moment from its terror activities against Israel,” Netanyahu added. “Whoever chooses Hamas’s terror does not want peace.”