Defense minister says Abbas trying to sabotage deal with Hamas

Avigdor Liberman says Israel not speaking directly to Gaza terror group, but has to be ‘smart’ in securing ceasefire agreement

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visits at an army drill in northern Israel on August 7, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visits at an army drill in northern Israel on August 7, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Sunday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was trying to sabotage a possible ceasefire deal between Israel and the Hamas terrorist group, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Abbas, who heads the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, “wants to damage the ties between us and the Gaza Strip,” Liberman told the Kan national broadcaster. “It is not our fight. They are trying to drag us into their internal Palestinian squabbles.”

Hamas and the PA have been at odds since the terror group violently took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. A number of reconciliation agreements between them, most recently an Egyptian-sponsored deal signed in October, have failed to resolve their differences.

Abbas warned Saturday that there can be no two separate entities ruling Palestinian lands, stating that if the PA is not handed complete control of the Gaza Strip, Hamas will have to take full responsibility for the territory.

“Either we take responsibility for the West Bank and Gaza under one state, one regime, one law, and one weapon, or [Hamas] will take responsibility,” he said, during a speech at the closing session of the Palestinian Central Council, the PLO’s second highest decision-making body.

Reconciliation with Hamas, Abbas said, “does not mean a truce, ceasefire, or humanitarian assistance. Reconciliation means that unity should be reinstated. There is no state in Gaza and an autonomy in the West Bank, and we will not accept this. We will never accept the separation of Gaza [from the West Bank].”

His rejection of truce efforts has reportedly stoked tension between Ramallah and Egypt.

Although a Hamas official said on Friday that ceasefire talks with Israel were in the “final stretch,” Liberman stressed that Jerusalem is not holding direct talks with the group, which openly seeks Israel destruction.

“We are not speaking with Hamas,” he told Kan, “but we will not tell Egypt or the United Nations that we do not want to speak with them. We have to be smart.”

He also clarified that Israel wants a “secure quiet” and that any other proposal “was not relevant.”

On Friday, a member of Hamas’s political bureau said that internal Palestinian talks on a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel were put on pause until the conclusion of this week’s Eid al-Adha, a Muslim festival that begins on Tuesday and lasts until Saturday.

“Today we finished a round of consultations in Cairo with the Palestinian factions regarding the calm [ceasefire deal] and the reconciliation” between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, Izzat al-Rishq wrote on his Twitter account, Channel 10 news reported.

Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq (photo credit: PressTV, YouTube screen capture)
Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq (photo credit: PressTV, YouTube screen capture)

The announcement from the Hamas official said Friday that negotiations for a long-term ceasefire deal mediated by Egypt and the United Nations are in “the final stretch.” Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV quoted Kahlil al-Hayya as saying the deal would follow understandings reached at the end of the 2014 war between the sides. He did not elaborate.

Al-Hayya added that Hamas supports reaching an accord.

Recent months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.

At least 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly protests began. Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

In addition to the border clashes, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

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