Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to announce the establishment of a new Palestinian government on Monday. On the eve of this announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found it proper to warn that the Israeli government would cut off any contact with the new Palestinian Authority except for necessary security coordination.
Within this threat is an inherent contradiction: If the prime minister is prepared to continue security cooperation with the government of Palestine, does this not constitute recognizing the government it plans to boycott?
But it’s not just this contradiction that’s puzzling. The Palestinian government to be formed is the result of the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and reflects Hamas’ recognition of the Palestinian Authority, which was born of the Oslo Agreements that Hamas had opposed with all its might. This reconciliation is the result of heavy Arab pressure, is supported by all the Arab states and by most of the Palestinian public, and has the backing of several European leaders. Israel, which invested great effort in foiling the diplomatic negotiations, is now citing the Palestinian reconciliation as a decisive reason for freezing the talks, as if before the reconciliation it was rushing to continue the process. Israel’s refusal to recognize this government is liable to portray it once again as the party refusing to give the diplomatic channel a chance.
The quality of the Palestinian government and its makeup are the Palestinians’ business. Just as Israel or any other country cannot dictate the composition of the Egyptian or Jordanian governments, so it must be with the Palestinian government. The mission of the new government is to tend to the needs of five million Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to manage their health, education and welfare services, maintain law and order, and develop the Palestinian economy. Israel should welcome the fact that it is not required to operate or fund those services.
If Israel had recognized the Palestinian government that was elected in 2006, or had cooperated with the Palestinian unity government that was established afterward, we would have been spared numerous casualties on both sides. Israel cannot repeat the same mistake. So long as the new Palestinian government continues to stick to the agreements it signed with Israel and seeks to continue cooperating with Israel, Netanyahu may not cut off ties with it or threaten to boycott it. He would be better off investing his efforts in renewing the diplomatic process with the partner that still exists.
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