A top Israeli minister will on Sunday demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu several all ties between Israel and the Palestinian Authority following a reconciliation deal signed in Cairo on Thursday between the Fatah party, which dominates the PA, and the Gaza-based Hamas terror group.
“We can’t allow ourselves to be weakened” by continuing to interact with the PA in the wake of Thursday’s Palestinian unity deal, Education Minister Naftali Bennett told Israel’s Channel 10 News. “We won’t be able to ask the international community to impose sanctions on Hamas if we essentially, de facto, recognize Hamas. Negotiating with the PA amounts to accepting Hamas as a legitimate entity.”
Asked whether he would therefore press Netanyahu to cut all ties with the PA at the next cabinet meeting, Bennett said he would.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman dismissed the demand, saying that Israel’s national security interests are served by economic stability in the West Bank and by security coordination with the PA. Bennett, he indicated, was merely advancing his own “electoral interests.” Added Liberman, who heads the Yisrael Beytenu party: “I prefer to focus on our security interests.”
Bennett, the head of the nationalist Jewish Home party, a rival to Netanyahu’s Likud, is set to press the prime minister during the weekly meeting on Sunday on two fronts, according to a Channel 2 report on Saturday. Along with demanding that Netanyahu scrap all ties to the PA, he is to urge the revocation of all recent concessions toward the PA, including the approval of building permits for Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank, the part that is under full Israeli control, and the setting up of an industrial zone in Tarkumiya and other towns.
These concessions were made to the Palestinian Authority back in May as “goodwill gestures” requested by US President Donald Trump, who is interested in reviving peace talks.
Bennett came out strongly against the Fatah-Hamas deal Thursday, angered by Netanyahu’s “restrained” response, according to the Channel 2 report.
In a statement Thursday after the deal was announced, Netanyahu said that “reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas makes peace [with Israel] much harder to achieve.”
Israel opposes any reconciliation in which the terrorist organization Hamas does not disarm and end its war to destroy…
Referring to Hamas, Netanyahu said: “Continuing to dig tunnels, manufacture missiles and initiate terrorist attacks against Israel are incompatible with the Quartet conditions and the efforts of the United States to renew the diplomatic process.”
Netanyahu said Israel would oppose “any reconciliation in which the terrorist organization Hamas does not disarm and end its war to destroy Israel.”
“Reconciling with mass-murderers is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Say yes to peace and no to joining hands with Hamas,” Netanyahu said.
A senior Israeli official had earlier said that “Israel will examine developments on the ground and react accordingly.”
Bennett then issued a statement of his own, saying the unity accord “turns the Palestinian Authority into a terror authority”
“Israel must sever any connection to this terror authority,” Bennett said, declaring that any cooperation between Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “is cooperation with Hamas.”
“Due to our responsibility and concern for the security of Israel, the transfer of funds to the Hamas government must be stopped immediately so as to not be an ‘ATM for terror,'” he said.
Hamas and Fatah signed the reconciliation deal on Thursday in Cairo under the auspices of Egyptian government. 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.”
Speaking after the agreement was signed, Saleh al-Arouri, who headed the Hamas delegation that negotiated the deal, said Palestinian unity was vital “so that we can all work together against the Zionist enterprise, which seeks to wipe out and trample the rights of our people.”
“We in Hamas are determined, serious and sincere this time and every time to end the division,” Arouri said. “We have adopted the strategy of one step at a time so that the reconciliation will succeed.”
Seated alongside him, Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of the Fatah delegation for the talks, said he had been instructed by Abbas to end the rift between the rival factions so that all the Palestinian people’s strength could be unified, “headed by Fatah and Hamas.”
The factions are set to meet again next month to start unity government talks.
Islamist terror group Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah in a violent coup in 2007. It has since fought three major rounds of conflict against Israel, which it openly seeks to eliminate. Israel has always opposed any “unified” Palestinian government in which Hamas has a role. Together with much of the international community, Israel has demanded, as preconditions for Hamas legitimacy, that the group renounce terrorism, accept Israel’s right to exist, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
It was also not immediately clear what would become of Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Abbas had previously demanded that Hamas disarm.
Arouri, who in recent years served as the terror group’s head of West Bank operations, was appointed as the organization’s deputy political leader earlier this month. He serves under Ismail Haniyeh, who himself replaced Khaled Mashaal as the group’s political bureau chief in May.
Arouri is believed by Israel to have planned numerous terrorist attacks including the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank — Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel — which led to the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.
Channel 10 reported last week that Israeli officials fear Arouri’s powerful position in Hamas could lead to an upsurge in terror if Fatah-Hamas reconciliation goes ahead, since Fatah could give Hamas greater flexibility and freedom in the West Bank.