Fatah insisting unity government recognize Israel

PA ‘won’t complete the reconciliation process’ unless Hamas agrees to international conditions, senior official says

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 and his Fatah movement are insisting that a unity government with Gaza’s Hamas leadership accept the principle of two states for two peoples along with other international conditions, a senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel on Friday morning, confirming remarks attributed to Abbas on Thursday.

The unity agreement between the two Palestinian factions, long at odds, prompted Israel to suspend already teetering US-brokered peace talks with Abbas’s PA.

Abbas and Fatah, the official said, “won’t agree to complete the reconciliation process” unless Hamas agrees to a new government that “accepts the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine — along the 1967 lines.” The new government must also “adhere to the conditions of the Middle East Quartet: recognize Israel, ratify all signed agreements and renounce violence,” he said.

The Middle East Quartet — the European Union, the United Nations, Russia and the United States — has long demanded that Hamas recognize Israel and existing agreements between Israel and the PLO, and renounce violence.

The official said that a phone conversation on Thursday between Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry was “positive” and that Washington would “continue to promote” the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kerry on Thursday urged Israel and the Palestinians to make the compromises needed to forge ahead with peace talks, although he admitted that the negotiations had reached “a difficult point.”

The official said a Palestinian unity government would only be established after Hamas and Fatah agreed to a date for elections to the PA presidency and parliament.

The official’s comments echoed remarks attributed to Abbas on Thursday evening after a meeting with the United Nations’ peace envoy, Robert Serry, in Ramallah.

According to a statement from Serry’s office, Abbas emphasized during the meeting that a Palestinian unity government would have to be founded on “recognition of Israel, nonviolence, and adherence to previous agreements,” along with “continued commitment to peace negotiations and to nonviolent popular protests.”

Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of Hamas’s founders and still a prominent figure in the West Bank, told The Times of Israel on Thursday that reconciliation with Fatah “will serve everyone: the Palestinians and even the peace process.”

Serry told Abbas that the United Nations welcomed the decision to form a unity government between the West Bank-based Fatah and the Gaza-ruling Hamas. The UN envoy maintained that reconciliation was “the only way to reunite the West Bank and Gaza under one legitimate Palestinian Authority,” the statement said.

The European Union also hailed the deal, but maintained that the extension of peace talks beyond the April 29 deadline must remain “the top priority.”

Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet “decided unanimously that it will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that incorporates Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel.”

Israel also said it planned to introduce economic sanctions against the PA, which will include withholding tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

Netanyahu said he would never negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes people who call for the destruction of Israel, as Hamas does.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians are considering “all options” in response to Israel’s decision.

“The Palestinian leadership will look into all options to respond to Israeli government decisions against the PA,” Erekat told AFP.

“The priority now for the Palestinians is reconciliation and national unity,” he added.

Marissa Newman and AFP contributed to this report.

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