Netanyahu Urges World to Say 'No' to New Palestinian Government

Prime Minister tells ministers acceptance of Fatah-Hamas cabinet, to be sworn in Monday, 'will not strengthen peace, it will strengthen terror.'

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Credit: Ronen Zvulun , AP , Mohamed Torokman, Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday urged international leaders to give a cold shoulder to the unity government comprising Fatah and Hamas, a day before the new Palestinian cabinet was slated to be sworn in.

"I call on all responsible parties in the international community not to hurry and not to rush into recognizing the Palestinian government that is supported by and dependent on Hamas," Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. "Hamas is a terrorist organization that calls for the annihilation of Israel, and it is not for the international community to embrace it. Such a step will not strengthen the peace [process], it will strengthen terror."

Environmental Affairs Minister Amir Peretz, however, urged his colleagues to "not close the door" on possible talks with the incoming Palestinian government.

"I suggest that we act with restraint and not close the door because afterward it will be very difficult to reopen it," Peretz said. "We should examine the platform of the new Palestinian government and not rule out dialogue with it. We should put Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] to the test on his ability to cause Hamas to recognize Israel and the conditions set by the Quartet."

The head of Fatah in the Palestinian parliament and the head of the Fatah negotiating team in the reconciliation talks with Hamas, Azzam al-Ahmed, said Saturday that the new government, which will be headed by Rami Hamdallah, will have between 15 and 17 cabinet ministers who will be sworn in by Abbas.

It is still unclear whether Israel will permit appointees from the Gaza Strip to make the trip to Ramallah; if not, they will be sworn in via video conference.

Israel has informed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas directly that all contact with the Palestinian Authority will be severed the moment the new Palestinian unity government is sworn in, a senior figure in the Palestinian president's office has told Haaretz.

Despite the warning, Abbas has confirmed that the cabinet will be sworn in Monday at the Muqata government compound in Ramallah. The same source said that coordination between Israel and the PA on security matters will not be affected by any suspension of ties.

Abbas has said a joint government with Hamas would continue to abide by his policy of recognising Israel, though the Islamist group insists it would not change its own policy of rejecting Israel's existence. He has been keen to assure Western donor countries he will remain the key Palestinian decision-maker and that security coordination between his forces and Israel will continue.

At this point the practical effects of the Israeli announcement are unclear, particularly with reference to the Gaza Strip.

There has been little direct contact between Israel and the PA since the breakdown of the peace talks, according to senior Palestinian officials, but many matters, especially civil ones, are arranged through the coordinator of government activities in the territories, they say.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau, said in an interview with Al Jazeera television this weekend that the new government will endeavor to unite the West Bank and Gaza Strip agencies and organizations, with the exception of the Interior Ministry. Its operations will be coordinated with the Arab League and with Egypt.

Abu Marzouk emphasized that Hamas will retain supervisory powers over the organization’s weapons, but also played up the importance of coordination with the Arab states in general and Egypt in particular over this issue.

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