The Obama administration has given Israel a “specific commitment” to back its refusal to negotiate with a Palestinian government that is supported by Hamas, according to an Israeli official who spoke Monday to The New York Times.
The official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the American administration had made the promise twice, once during President Barack Obama’s first term in office and again since his reelection.
Israel suspended peace talks with the Palestinians last week after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party announced a reconciliation pact with Hamas, which both Jerusalem and Washington consider to be a terrorist organization.
A senior US State Department official refused to comment on the Israeli official’s claims, saying only that the administration was “not going to reveal the details of private conversations,” according to the report.
The Israeli official did not specify whether the American commitment had been provided in writing, or whether it was given directly by the president. He reportedly insisted that the US administration had supported the Israeli position — refusing to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government — unless Hamas agreed to recognize Israeli’s right to exist, renounce all violence and accept previously signed agreements between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Hamas said on Sunday that it would not recognize Israel, although it indicated it would not obstruct negotiations between the PLO and the Jewish state.
Hamas and Fatah agreed on April 23 to implement the 2011 Cairo reconciliation agreement, stipulating the formation of an interim technocrat government within five weeks, followed by general parliamentary and presidential elections in Gaza and the West Bank within six months.
At first, Hamas’ only official comment on last Wednesday’s “Gaza declaration” was a laconic statement declaring Palestinian unity to be “a national achievement and an important junction in Palestinian history.”
But subsequent comments by Abbas saying that a unity government led by him will recognize Israel, coupled with statements to the same effect attributed to Hamas government spokesman Taher Nunu by The Washington Post on Saturday night, prompted several Hamas officials to speak up on Sunday and declare that Hamas would never recognize Israel.
“What I was quoted as telling the American paper is wrong, and I unequivocally deny it,” Nunu told the Palestinian Qudsnet news agency. “The issue of Hamas recognizing Israel is a complete nonstarter… aimed primarily at weakening the movement’s positions on Israel.”
Nunu said he would seek legal recourse against The Washington Post for its “false report.”
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.