Israel's Security Cabinet to Discuss Policy Toward Palestinian Reconciliation on Monday

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Palestinians celebrate after Hamas said it reached a deal with Palestinian rival Fatah, in Gaza City October 12, 2017.
Palestinians celebrate after Hamas said it reached a deal with Palestinian rival Fatah, in Gaza City October 12, 2017. Credit: SUHAIB SALEM/REUTERS

The security cabinet will on Monday discuss Israel’s policy toward the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas and the possibility that the two Palestinian factions will form a unity government. Habayit Hayehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett has been saying that Israel should impose sanctions on the Palestinian Authority in response to the reconciliation, but it isn’t clear whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to go that route.

During Sunday's meeting of Likud ministers, Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin raised the issue of the reconciliation agreement and asked Netanyahu what the policy will now be toward relations with the PA. A source who attended the meeting said Netanyahu told Elkin that the issue would be debated by the security cabinet Monday and he removed the item from the agenda. Nearly an hour later, during a meeting of coalition party heads, Bennett also raised the issue and Netanyahu again said it would be discussed by the security cabinet.

In April 2014, after a similar agreement was signed between Fatah and Hamas, the security cabinet froze negotiations with the PA and severed ties between Israeli ministers and their Palestinian counterparts. When then-Justice Minister Tzipi Livni met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas despite the cabinet decision, she was scathingly criticized by Netanyahu and his aides.

Israel responded with restraint to last week’s announcement that the reconciliation agreement had been signed. The Prime Minister’s Office did not criticize the agreement, saying, "Israel will follow developments on the ground and will act accordingly." Officials in the prime minister’s bureau said Israel would object to any reconciliation agreement that does not meet the conditions set by the Middle East Quartet a decade ago – accepting international agreements, recognizing Israel and disarming Hamas. 

Bennett was critical of Netanyahu’s mild reaction and called for a severing of ties with the PA in accordance with the cabinet decision of 2014. 

“Negotiating with the Palestinian Authority will now essentially grant legitimacy to Hamas,” said Bennett. “This is a national terrorist government and we have no moral right to stutter or fold. We must act with full force against murderers and not be silent partners in the whitewashing of Hamas. Maintaining relations with them will encourage terror.”

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