There is no chance for Israeli-Palestinian peace as long as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction sticks with the reconciliation deal it signed with Hamas, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday.
He said the deal meant Israel “has no partner” and said it signified a move toward Hamas gaining greater influence in the West Bank.
Reiterating his claim that Abbas is guilty of “diplomatic terror,” Liberman said Israel wasn’t surprised by the Fatah-Hamas pact, as Abbas had tried several times to blow up the Israeli-Palestinian talks during the last few months. He also said that he expects international pressure on Israel to continue engaging in the current US-brokered peace talks, yet asserted that Washington supported Jerusalem’s decision to cancel a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
“It is clear that as soon as Abbas chose to unite with Hamas, it is impossible to make peace with Israel,” the foreign minister told Israel Radio.
On Wednesday, Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization announced a reconciliation deal which would see the formation of a technocratic unity government and new elections after years of bitter rivalry.
Israel has lambasted the deal as pushing the Palestinian leadership further from peace with Israel.
On Thursday, top-level ministers making up the so-called security cabinet met to discuss what steps Israel would take in response.
Since the meeting was not yet over, Liberman was hesitant to declare the peace talks suspended. Yet he sounded adamant that Wednesday’s development leaves Israel with little chance of continuing negotiations with the Palestinians beyond the initial April 29 deadline.
“As long as there is a deal with Hamas and Abbas goes into the direction of an agreement with Hamas, the agreement with Israel is impossible,” he said, explaining his Yisrael Beytenu party’s position. “We will not accept a government that openly receives its authority from Hamas, an organization that clearly speaks about violence, terror and doesn’t recognize our right to exist and doesn’t recognize our previous agreements.”
Asked whether a unified Palestinian government wouldn’t make it easier to reach an agreement, he said that “it’s not that he [Abbas] rules over Gaza. Rather, Gaza rules over Judea and Samaria,” he said, referring to the PA-controlled West Bank.
The unity deal will lead to Hamas not only maintaining its control over the coastal strip “but also over Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron,” Liberman said.
“It is clear to everyone who can analyze the reality on the ground and knows the facts that, unfortunately, the direction is not toward peace, but toward escalation and confrontation with Israel.”
If elections were held in the Palestinian territories, as agreed by the Hamas and Fatah, Hamas would clearly win, both in Gaza and the West Bank, Liberman forecast. “There is a clear trend toward confrontation,” he said. “Hamas deals with classical terrorism; Abbas does diplomatic terror.”
There is “no doubt” that the international community will criticize Jerusalem if the peace talks collapse following the Palestinian reconciliation, and will exert pressure on Israel to continue the talks, Liberman predicted. Israel’s challenge will be to withstand these pressures, he said. “Israel will not change its positions, this I can guarantee. As long as Abbas prefers an agreement with Hamas over an agreement with Israel, we have no partner.”
The Moldovan-born foreign minister said Abbas was following the “no war, no peace… strategy of [Leon] Trotsky,” which he said the PA leader “learned at the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow” along with the heads of other “freedom-fighter” movements in the 1970s. He said Abbas would never sign a treaty with Israel, never fight, and never resign. While “Hamas engages in ‘classical terror,” said Liberman, Abbas “engages in political terror, political extortion.”