Israel Says Will Not Negotiate With Palestinian Government Supported by Hamas

Security cabinet also sets conditions for negotiations, including disarming Hamas, severing its ties with Iran and returning Israeli citizens held in Gaza and bodies of soldiers

Palestinian members of the al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, December 7, 2012
REUTERS

Israel's security cabinet decided during a meeting on Tuesday that Israel will not engage in political negotiations with a Palestinian unity government, if such a government is indeed established following the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the Prime Minister's Office said.

A senior Israeli official said that this position in fact reaffirms a similar decision made by the security cabinet in April 2014, after Fatah and Hamas announced a reconciliation deal that collapsed a few months later. “Following previous decisions, the Israeli government will not hold political talks with a Palestinian government that is supported by Hamas, a terror organization calling for the destruction of Israel,” the statement read.

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In addition, the cabinet set conditions that must be met for Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian government: 1. Hamas must recognize Israel and cease terrorist activiity, in accordance to the Quartet's conditions; 2. Hamas must disarm; 3. the return of bodies of killed Israeli soldiers and the Israeli civilians held in Gaza; 4. the Palestinian Authority must have full security control in Gaza, including at crossings, and prevention of smuggling; 5. continuation of dismantling Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank by the PA; 6. severing ties between Hamas and Iran; 7. funds and humanitarian equipment will be provided to Gaza only by the PA and mechanisms to be established to that end.

A senior Israeli official said the cabinet has not yet decided on punitive measures against the PA but authorized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to impose future sanctions on the organization, such as deducting debts from taxes Israel collects for the Palestinians.

The cabinet did not decide to sever ties with the PA, and cooperation will continue, including in areas related to implementing the reconciliation agreement in Gaza. For example, Israel will cooperate with PA forces if they resume control of civilian affairs in Gaza and operate the border crossings.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads Habayit Hayehudi, said about the decision: “Any other cabinet decision would have given legitimacy to the terror organization Hamas, which strives to destroy Israel.” He added that he is convinced the Israeli government will withstand any international and Palestinian pressure regarding the reconciliation agreement.

The fact that Israel has decided not to hold talks with the Palestinian unity government may make it difficult for U.S. President Donald Trump to push the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan he and his advisers have been working on during the past several weeks. The U.S. administration has backed the Egypt-brokered reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah and views it as a way of restoring PA President Mahmoud Abbas' political legitimacy, as well as his authority and control over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.