New PA government to recognize Israel, Abbas reportedly says
UN envoy claims PA president told him joint leadership would renounce violent struggle and adhere to previous agreements
Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that the unity agreement between his Fatah movement and Gaza’s Hamas rulers will be founded on the PLO’s commitments, including recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, and acceptance of previous agreements, the United Nations’ peace envoy said Thursday night after meeting with Abbas.
In a conversation with Robert Serry in Ramallah, Abbas said that the agreement would be implemented under the PA president’s leadership “and on the basis of the PLO commitments,” Serry’s office said in a statement.
“President Abbas emphasized that these commitments include recognition of Israel, nonviolence, and adherence to previous agreements. President Abbas also reiterated his continued commitment to peace negotiations and to nonviolent popular protests,” the statement said.
Earlier Thursday, Jibril Rajoub, a Fatah leader, told AFP that “the next national consensus government will proclaim loud and clear that it accepts the Quartet’s conditions.”
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.
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.
AFP and Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.