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.
File: Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar giving a press conference in 2008. (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)
A top Hamas official boasted that the organization’s forces would not be bound to follow instructions from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and dismissed claims that a planned unity government would recognize Israel.
Mahmoud Al-Zahar said in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper Alyoum Sabaa on Tuesday that no militiamen in Gaza would be under Abbas’s control after a planned interim technocrat government is installed.
“The reconciliation deal won’t change the current situation, and the new government’s ministers are to have no authority over diplomacy since it is an interim government,” he said. “The reconciliation deal will not change Hamas at all, and will not bring the organization to recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
Last week Abbas’s Fatah party signed a reconciliation pact with Hamas in which the two factions agreed to form a unity government within five weeks, with general elections later in the year.
Activists in the Hamas military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades will continue to operate independent of the unity government under Abbas, as will the armed elements of the Hamas security forces, Zahar clarified.
The official, who was involved in the reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas, also repudiated Abbas’s statements that the new government would recognize Israel. In his opinion, Abbas’s announcements that the new government will recognize Israel and uphold previous agreements are “worthless” and the reconciliation will not change anything since the new government’s ministers will be drawn from academics who have no diplomatic authority.
Zahar stressed that Hamas will continue to be responsible for its own forces despite the reconciliation deal and regardless of who eventually wins the general elections planned for later in the year.
He added that the organization was looking forward to putting together a national unity government, but noted that Abbas needed to overcome the objections of the US and Israel.
Zahar suggested that Abbas decided to try reconciliation with Hamas since the negotiations with Israel under American auspices did not produce results.
The move, he said, aimed to buy time for Abbas and to put pressure on Israel, though the Palestinian Authority leader is now worried about threats from Washington to freeze financial aid.
Since the unity deal was signed last week, US officials have made it clear that Washington expects the interim Palestinian government to recognize Israel, reject violence, and honor previous agreements — or risk losing financial aid from the US.