The Palestinian Authority brushed off Israel’s decision to suspend peace talks over the reconciliation accord reached between PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and the Hamas terror group, saying it would have “no bearing” on the implementation of the unity deal.
“What was agreed in Cairo, under the auspices of Egypt, is moving in the right direction towards ending division, and any Israeli remarks will not change the official Palestinian position to move forward,” said Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh in a statement carried on the PA’s official news site Wafa.
“We’ve already formed a national unity government and the government of national consensus. External considerations will have no bearing as the Palestinian leadership believes in national unity and the interests of its people,” he added.
Hours earlier, Israel’s security cabinet announced it would not pursue peace talks with a Palestinians government that included Hamas, ticking off a list of demands for it to agree to unfreeze already moribund diplomatic efforts, including Hamas renouncing terrorism and recognizing the Jewish state.
Calling reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas “a supreme national interest,” Abu Rudeineh said the deal would help end Israel’s “occupation” and lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“Any Israeli remarks will not change the Palestinian official position to move forward with reconciliation efforts…in order to complete the national project to end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state in all the occupied Palestinian territories 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.
Hamas released a statement urging Palestinians to ignore the Israeli governments demands.
“This Israeli intervention into internal Palestinian affairs is rejected. The Palestinian people at all levels should not respond to these blatant Zionist interventions,” said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum.
An unnamed Palestinian official told the Ynet news site the cabinet decision was a “new excuse” by Israel to avoid peace talks.
“This is a new excuse meant to lead to a dead end [in peace talks] because for many years Israel didn’t want there to be a renewed connection between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel’s interest is that Gaza will always be weak and divided from the West Bank.”
According to the reconciliation deal between the rival factions, meant to pave the way for a unity government, Hamas will let the Abbas-led PA retake control of Gaza, though the terror group has refused to disarm as part of the agreement.
The agreement, brokered by Egypt, was inked Thursday in Cairo, though many clauses have yet to be worked out.
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 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.
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 reportedly 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.
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.”