Netanyahu said to reject blackballing PA over Hamas reconciliation

Decision to reluctantly tolerate Palestinian rapprochement draws protest from Jewish Home head Bennett, who says unity move has made Abbas-led body a terror entity

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly government conference at the PM's office in Jerusalem on October 15, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly government conference at the PM's office in Jerusalem on October 15, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told ministers Monday that Israel would not freeze contacts with the Palestinian Authority despite opposition to a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal, drawing protests from a top minister.

At a meeting of the security cabinet, Netanyahu said that even though Israel will not recognize Thursday’s deal between the Fatah party, which dominates the PA, and the Gaza-based Hamas terror group, he will not cut ties to the PA, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

Even though Netanyahu had previously said that “reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas makes peace [with Israel] much harder to achieve,” he said it was nonetheless in Israel’s interest to support the deal to avert a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett, a senior government minister, rejected Netanyahu’s approach Tuesday and said the agreement has made the Palestinian Authority a terrorist entity.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrives at the weekly government conference at the PM’s office in Jerusalem on October 15, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

“Hamas has signed a reconciliation agreement with the PA in order to whitewash itself and enjoy legitimacy, all while gaining strength against us,” the education minister said, according to Hebrew media.

“A Palestinian government basing itself on Hamas becomes a terrorist unity government. Israel must not fold and negotiate with it,” he added.

Bennett accused Hamas of continuing to plot the murder of Israelis and dig terror tunnels while maintaining as its goal the destruction of Israel, even as it negotiated with Fatah.

He called for Israel to boycott peace efforts with PA President Mahmoud Abbas until Hamas disarms, adopts the principles of the so-called Middle East Quartet, and returns the Israeli citizens it holds captives, including the bodies of Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin who were killed in the 2014 summer war between Israel and Hamas.

Earlier this month US special envoy Jason Greenblatt said similarly that while the US welcomed the reconciliation talks, the terror group must accept the Quartet’s principles in order for a government it sits in to receive diplomatic recognition.

Masked youth cadets from the Hamas terror group’s military-wing march in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis on September 15, 2017. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

“The United States stresses that any Palestinian 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,” Greenblatt said.

Netanyahu has also protested Hamas’s refusal to disarm and continued support terror activity, saying Israel would oppose reconciliation efforts.

“Continuing to dig tunnels, manufacture missiles and initiate terrorist attacks against Israel are incompatible with the Quartet principles and the efforts of the United States to renew the diplomatic process,” he said last week.

The Palestinian Authority is to retake full control of the Gaza Strip by December 1, according to the deal.

Upon signing the deal, the Hamas deputy political leader said the agreement was reached in order that all Palestinian forces can “work together against the Zionist enterprise.”

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