Netanyahu: Faux Palestinian reconciliation risks ‘our existence’

PM says Palestinians must disband Hamas armed wing, sever ties with Iran; Bennett proposes cutting payments to PA over negotiations with ‘murderous terror organization’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) with mayor of Ma'ale Adumim Benny Kashriel (right) during a Likud faction meeting in Ma'ale Adumim, near Jerusalem on October 3, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) with mayor of Ma'ale Adumim Benny Kashriel (right) during a Likud faction meeting in Ma'ale Adumim, near Jerusalem on October 3, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday rejected ongoing reconciliation efforts between the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza-based Hamas terror group, saying any future Palestinian government must disband the terror organization’s armed wing and sever all ties with Iran.

“We expect anyone talking about a peace process to recognize Israel and, of course, recognize a Jewish state, and we won’t accept faux reconciliations in which the Palestinian side reconciles at the expense of our existence,” Netanyahu said during a special Likud faction meeting in the West Bank city of Ma’ale Adumim.

“We have a very straightforward attitude toward anyone who wants to effect such a reconciliation: Recognize the State of Israel, dismantle Hamas’s military wing, sever the relationship with Iran, which calls for our destruction,” he added.

The current Palestinian developments began in earnest on Monday, when a 300-person Palestinian Authority delegation entered Gaza in order to begin taking back administrative control of the Strip.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (C) is surrounded by security as he waves following his arrival at the Erez border crossing in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on October 2, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Fatah, the faction that controls the PA, and the Hamas terror group have been at loggerheads since Hamas violently took control of the Strip in 2007, with the two groups operating separate administrations. The factions have unsuccessfully attempted to reconcile a number of times in the past.

Hamas said a week ago it had agreed to steps toward resolving the longstanding split with Abbas’s Fatah, announcing it would dissolve a body seen as a rival government — known as the administrative committee — and was ready to hold elections.

It remains unclear whether the steps will result in further concrete action toward ending the deep division with Fatah, as a number of previous reconciliation efforts have failed to bring the two sides together.

In the current talks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded full control of the PA in Gaza, including over security and the border, before he would form a unity government and reverse deep financial cuts to Gaza that have worsened already existed electricity and water crises.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (C) chairs a reconciliation government cabinet meeting in Gaza City on October 3, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Hamas, however, continues to affirm that it won’t give up its arms, and expects Abbas’s cuts to be reversed in the short term.

Earlier Tuesday, Jewish Home party chairman Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that in response to the reconciliation efforts, as well as the Palestinian Authority’s recent joining of the Interpol international police organization, Israel “must immediately stop transferring tax money to the Hamas government headed by Abbas.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends a committee meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on August 23, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Israel must stop being terror’s ATM. This isn’t about Palestinian reconciliation but about Mahmoud Abbas joining forces with a murderous terror organization. Transferring monies to a Hamas government is akin to transferring funds from Israel to IS – rockets will be fired at us in return,” Bennett said in a statement.

Bennett said Israel must insist that three conditions be met in order for the money to be transferred: The return of the bodies of slain IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin; Hamas’s recognition of Israel and “the ending of incitement”; and the Palestinian Authority ending all payments to terrorists imprisoned in Israel.

On Monday, Abbas said that he would not accept Hamas keeping its armed forces in Gaza like Hezbollah does in Lebanon and demanded “full control” of the Strip, including over the border, security and all the ministries.

“I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon” in Gaza, Abbas said in an interview late Monday with the Egyptian news station CBC, pointing to an early point of conflict with Hamas, which has vowed not to turn in its arms.

The latest reconciliation efforts come as US President Donald Trump has sought to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and met separately with Abbas and Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month.

Also Monday, Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, said in a statement that while Washington welcomed the effort to put the PA back in control of Gaza, any resulting unity government “must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations.”

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