Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday that Israel will not intervene in the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections, but that it will not work with Hamas.
"I want to send a message from here: We will not intervene in the political decisions of the Palestinians," Gantz said at a ceremony for the changing of the coordinator of government activities in the territories.
"We emphasize that we will not agree to work with Hamas, a terror organization that has taken the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip hostage and propagates terror in Judaea and Samaria," he said, using the biblical terms for the West Bank.
Gantz said he hopes the Palestinians make the right decisions for themselves. "Our approach to the Gaza Strip is simple – we want to live in peace and quiet, in security and stability, and to bring our sons home," he said, referring to Israeli captives held by Hamas in Gaza.
"The key to Gaza's economic growth is in the return of our sons and preserving the quiet. If this happens, the situation in Gaza will improve. If not, we will continue to stand even with the sword waving."
Last week, Kan public broadcaster reported that the head of the Shin Bet security service visited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in early March in a bid to get him to cancel the Palestinian parliamentary election slated for May.
The 90-minute meeting, also attended by other senior Palestinian Authority figures, was described as "fraught" by one Palestinian official, with another accusing Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman of acting in “a very rude, patronizing manner," according to the report.
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Argaman reportedly told Abbas, “You can’t hold elections with Hamas.” To that, Abbas retorted, “I don’t work for you.”
Later that week, jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti submitted an independent list of parliamentary candidates to the Central Election Commission of the Palestinian Authority, in a move perceived as a major threat to Abbas' standing.
Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences and another 40 years in an Israeli prison for his involvement in murders and terror attacks in the second intifada. Due to his imprisonment, the decision to turn in the election is a symbolic act, and the slate will be managed by its other members.
His former political home, Fatah, has sought to persuade Barghouti not to run, while rival factions have attempted to lure the popular prisoner onto their slate.
Though Palestinian Parliament members and presidents are voted in for four-year terms, this year's vote would be the first parliamentary elections in 14 years and first presidential one in 15.