Gov't stops short of cutting PA ties, security coordination

Ministers put kibosh on peace talks after Fatah-Hamas unity deal

Israel issues a series of demands for resumption of negotiations, including disbandment of terror group’s armed wing, recognition of Jewish state

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 3, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 3, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Israel’s top-level security cabinet on Tuesday said the government would no longer hold peace talks with the Palestinian Authority following the reconciliation agreement it reached with Hamas unless the terror group renounced terrorism and recognized the Jewish state.

In a statement, the security cabinet, made up of senior ministers, listed a number of conditions that must be met before Israel would resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians, including the dissolution of Hamas’s arsenal; the return of Israeli citizens and the bodies of IDF soldiers being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip; the restoration of PA security control in Gaza, including at border crossings; continued action by the PA against Hamas’s “terror infrastructure” in the West Bank; and the end of Hamas’s ties with Iran.

The ministers said Hamas must forswear terrorism and recognize the Jewish state in accordance with the conditions of the Middle East Quartet, which comprises the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

It also said any aid or humanitarian equipment destined for Gaza must pass through the PA and the systems in place meant to thwart smuggling to the terror group.

While the statement said Israel would no longer engage in peace talks until the conditions are met, it did not say Israel would cut ties with the PA or end security cooperation.

Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Saleh al-Arouri, left, of Hamas shake hands after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements ended their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett, a senior government minister, welcomed the cabinet decision, saying in a statement Israel would not engage in peace talks with Abbas over his “association with a terrorist organization.”

Bennett, who previously said he would demand Israel cut all ties with the PA over the deal, called the PA a “terrorist authority” in his statement, but did not reiterate his call for contacts with the PA to be ended.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stressed his opposition to the reconciliation deal and said it would make “peace much harder to achieve,” he told members of the security cabinet on Monday that Israel would not cut ties with the PA and that it was in Israel’s interest to support the deal to avert a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, according to the Haaretz daily.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)

The security cabinet’s decision on Tuesday came as a senior Hamas spokesman denied a report that the terror group agreed to halt attacks against Israel from the West Bank as part of the reconciliation deal.

“There are no secret clauses in the reconciliation understanding, and what the occupation published on the resistance halting in the West Bank is not true,” said senior Hamas spokesperson Husam Badran, in an interview with the Palestinian news site Quds Network.

“The position to choose resistance is not connected to any person or entity, but rather it is the position of the entire Palestinian people to decide. The natural situation is that when there is an occupation, there will be a resistance to confront it,” Badran added.

On Saturday, the Maariv daily reported that the deal struck between rival Hamas and Fatah on Thursday included a “secret clause” saying that Hamas, a terror group in control of the Gaza Strip, would cease carrying out attacks against Israelis from the West Bank.

On Sunday, London-based Pan-Arab daily As-Sharq al-Awsat also reported that there was an “implicit understanding” between Hamas and Fatah that the terror group would extend its current ceasefire with Israel from Gaza to the West Bank.

While Hamas has for years agreed to a ceasefire against Israel from the Gaza Strip, its West Bank operatives have continued to plan and provoke attacks against Israelis.

In remarks in Cairo immediately after the deal was signed last week, the chief Hamas negotiator, Saleh al-Arouri, said Hamas signed the agreement in order that all Palestinian forces can “work together against the Zionist enterprise.”

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