Lieberman to Ashton: Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation Gives Hamas Opening for West Bank Takeover

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman cautions EU's Catherine Ashton that reconciliation may mean takeover in West Bank similar to that in Gaza in 2007, may use West Bank to perpetrate terror against Israel.

Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman cautioned European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton Friday that the recent Hamas-Fatah reconciliation could lead to a repetition of history, with Hamas taking over the West Bank just as it overtook Gaza in 2007 after Israel disengaged from the strip.

Lieberman projected in a telephone conversation with Ashton that in the event that Hamas gains control of the West Bank, they will use the territory to launch rockets and perpetrate terror against the citizens of Israel.

Emil Salman

Representatives from Hamas and Fatah announced in Cairo on Wednesday night their intention to reconcile, after a four-year-long bitter and at times violent rift, which saw Hamas administering the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under the control of the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian officials said on Friday that Egypt has invited Palestinian leaders to Cairo next week for the signing of the reconciliation agreement.

The invitation from Egypt, received by factional leaders in the Gaza Strip, said the three-day ceremony will start May 2 and end with the official signing by Abbas and Damascus-based Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal.

There was no immediate comment from Egyptian officials.

The agreement, if implemented, will see the Hamas government in Gaza, and the West Bank government headed by Salam Fayyad, replaced by an interim unity government consisting of "professional" figures, which will prepare for Palestinian elections.

The Israeli foreign minister implored Ashton Friday to approach the Palestinian unity agreement with caution, saying Europe must take steps to ensure that Hamas follows through on the Middle East Quartet's conditions for the peace process to move forward.

The Middle East Quartet, comprised of the EU, the U.S., the UN and Russia, has demanded Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist and abolish the clause of its charter that calls for its destruction, cease terror activities against Israel and honor all agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians.

He also called on Ashton to push Hamas to allow Red Cross representatives into the Gaza Strip to see abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by the militant organization for the past five years.

Liberman added that support of the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement without these preconditions being met would send the Palestinian populace a message that terror is a viable means for achieving its goals, thereby diminishing the chances of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Earlier Friday, the Israeli foreign minister called on world countries not to recognize the Palestinian government to be set up after the Islamist Hamas and the mainstream Fatah movements announced a reconciliation deal.

"The international community must not legitimize the government whose face is the face of (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) and whose arms are the arms of Hamas, who launches missiles at citizens and stains innocents with blood," he told Cypriot President Emetris Christofias during a meeting in Nicosia, according to a statement issued by his office after the meeting.

Lieberman told Christofias that the "inability" of the international community to obtain one declaration from the UN Security Council condemning Syria for its brutal crackdown on demonstrators, made Israelis wonder whether the international community could be relied on for "balanced and honest considerations in regards to the situation between Israel and the Palestinians."

"This feeling is currently being strengthened by the conciliatory approach, in opposition to the Quartet's decision, taken by some countries towards Hamas - a terror organization whose declared, primary aim is the destruction of Israel," he said.