Hamas set to gain more control in West Bank, PM says

Netanyahu calls for international pressure to break up Palestinian unity government, says Abbas must ‘demilitarize’ Gaza Strip

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on March 30, 2014. (Danny Meron/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on March 30, 2014. (Danny Meron/Flash90)

In the wake of the unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas, Hamas has no intention of moderating its stance against Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday morning. Moreover, he added, rather than the Palestinian Authority gaining control over the Gaza Strip, there are signs that the militant Islamic group is making preparations to gain more power in the West Bank.

Instead of the PA taking control of Gaza, “we see more and more signs that the exact opposite will happen. That is to say, that Hamas will gain more control over Palestinian Authority areas in Judea and Samaria,” the prime minister said, using the biblical terms for the southern and northern West Bank.

At the end of last week, the Hamas leadership “again declared its intention to destroy the state of Israel,” and those who thought that the unity Palestinian government would moderate the Islamic movement are “mistaken,” Netanyahu said ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting.

On Monday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a government, the fruit of a unity pact between the moderate Fatah movement and hardliner Hamas group, ending a seven-year rift. Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007, with Fatah maintaining its hold on the West Bank.

Israel has said it will boycott the government and called for the international community to do the same.

On Sunday, President Shimon Peres, in Rome for a peace prayer with Abbas at the Vatican, said the unity pact was destined to fail.

“You cannot mix fire and water in the same glass,” he said.

Speaking to Israeli ministers, Netanyahu reiterated his call for international pressure on Abbas to dissolve the unity agreement with Hamas, and said that the issue touched on the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the prospects for peace.

The prime minister noted that, even with Hamas now in the Palestinian government, Abbas “is obligated to honor all his previous agreements” including “the agreement to demilitarize the areas under Palestinian government control, including, of course, the Gaza Strip.”

In his remarks, Netanyahu also praised the recent announcement by the Australian government that it would no longer refer to East Jerusalem as “occupied” territory, a decision the prime minister said was courageous and refreshing.

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