Abbas to announce his Hamas-backed government will recognize Israel

After Israel suspends peace talks over Fatah-Hamas unity pact, PA leader to set out policy guidelines in address to PLO panel Saturday

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas greets his supporters following a trip to Washington DC, on March 20, 2014, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas greets his supporters following a trip to Washington DC, on March 20, 2014, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will on Saturday formally present the political platform of his anticipated new government, in the wake of his Fatah faction’s unity pact with Hamas, a Palestinian official told The Times of Israel on Friday.

The official, who asked not to be named, said Abbas would tell the PLO’s Central Committee that the new government — scheduled to be established within the next five weeks — would recognize Israel and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. The government would also be committed to a two-state solution, with an independent Palestine alongside Israel.

The new government would support continued negotiations with Israel in order to achieve the two-state solution, the official said.

US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that Abbas had made similar assurances to US Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call Thursday night.

“It’s a positive thing,” she said.

Abbas, in his address, will stress that the new government will be comprised of technocrats rather than politicians, according to the official who spoke with The Times of Israel. There will be no Fatah or Hamas representatives in the government, he added.

The official expressed criticism of Israel’s bitter response to the unity pact. The PA’s support for Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, he said, was designed to boost peace efforts, not to cause their collapse. “We knew in advance that Hamas would agree to the conditions that we and the Egyptians had put to them,” he said, “to the effect that the new government would be headed by Abu Mazen [Abbas] and would operate according to his directives, and that an agreed date would be fixed for Palestinian elections.”

The economic sanctions that Israel said Thursday it would impose on the PA — including the use of taxes collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf to offset PA debts to Israel — were likely to lead to the weakening of the PA’s security apparatus, he also said.

The Israeli inner cabinet voted unanimously on Thursday to suspend negotiations with the PA in the wake of the Fatah-Hamas deal. Ministers decided that Israel “will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that incorporates Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel,” a statement said.

Israeli officials said the government decision was carefully worded so as not to rule out a possible resumption of peace talks if, in the next five weeks, Abbas fails to agree with Hamas on the composition of a unity government as scheduled. At the same time, the wording was also designed to make plain that Israel will not negotiate with any Palestinian government that rests on Hamas support even if there are actually no Hamas ministers sitting around the cabinet table.

According to Psaki, “[Kerry’s] view is this is a moment of transition and part of the process. We are in a holding period where parties need to figure out what is next.”

“We have always thought there could be a point where we needed to pause and both sides needed to look at what was possible. And we’re clearly at that point now,” she told reporters, adding that the US can’t force the parties to cooperate.

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