Joint (Arab) List party leader Ayman Odeh on Tuesday night called Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Fatah movement, to congratulate them on the reconciliation talks between their respective movements.
According to a statement, Odeh stressed in both conversations that “all efforts must be made to unite and overcome any disputes in order to end the Israeli occupation.”
Haniyeh told the Israeli lawmaker, whose party holds 13 seats in the Knesset, that he appreciated the conversation as it represents the feelings of the Palestinian people everywhere, according to the statement. He also emphasized his goal of ending the disputes with Abbas’s Fatah and unifying Palestinians against “the occupation,” the statement said.
In response, Deputy Minister for Public Diplomacy Michael Oren (Kulanu) called for a police investigation of Odeh. “This likely violates Israeli law and must be investigated,” he said of the phone call with the Hamas leader.
United Arab List head Oudeh phones head of Hamas terrorist organization. This likely violates Israeli law and must be investigated.
— Michael Oren (@DrMichaelOren) October 3, 2017
In the phone call with Odeh, Abbas said he was determined to reconcile with Hamas and reach a deal that both sides could agree on to unite the Palestinian people against “the occupation,” the statement said.
“Those who oppose Palestinian reconciliation oppose peace,” Odeh tweeted on Tuesday, in an apparent dig at Netanyahu, who on Tuesday came out against any power-sharing deal that doesn’t disband Hamas’s military wing and include recognition of Israel.
Responding to the call on Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Odeh and his party were undermining Israel by acting as agents for terror groups.
“Unfortunately, the political leadership of Israeli Arabs, as represented in the Knesset by the Joint List, has become a real fifth column — without quotation marks — a senior representation of terrorist organizations in the Knesset,” said Liberman in a statement on Tuesday, urging Arab Israelis to seek new leadership.
Abbas’s prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, is currently visiting Gaza, where he has received a warm welcome in what is by far the most ambitious attempt by the Palestinian rivals to end a 10-year rift. But Hamdallah’s visit is largely symbolic, and the negotiations on key sticking points, including the future of Hamas’s military force, only start next week in Egypt.
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.
In a TV interview, Haniyeh said his group, which has fought three wars with Israel, would never give up its armed struggle against the Jewish state.
“As long as there is occupation on the ground, our people have the right to possess weapons and resist the occupation with all forms of resistance,” he told the private On TV station.
Abbas, meanwhile, had demanded the Hamas group relinquish its arsenal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said his government will not accept a reconciliation deal between rival Palestinian factions that puts Israel at risk.
A senior Israel official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that “Hamas is trying to gain international legitimacy without accepting Israel’s right to exist, without disarming and without accepting the Quartet principles. Hamas remains a ruthless, mass-murdering terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s destruction.”
Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks Israel’s destruction, seized control of Gaza from Abbas’ forces in 2007, leaving the Palestinians divided between rival governments in territories located on opposite sides of Israel.
AP contributed to this report.