Israel Responds With Restraint to Palestinian Unity: 'We'll Follow Developments and Act Accordingly'

New Palestinian unity government must recognize Israel, disarm Hamas, as stipulated by Quartet, Israeli officials say, noting: 'Israel objects to any reconciliation that does not include these components'

A Palestinian youth poses in front of his national flag during celebrations in Gaza City after rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement on ending a decade-long split following talks mediated by Egypt on October 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED
A Palestinian youth poses in front of his national flag during celebrations in Gaza City after rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement on ending a decade-long split following t MOHAMMED ABED/AFP

Israel avoided attacking the Palestinian reconciliation agreement reached Thursday between Hamas and Fatah, striking a diplomatic tone in its response. "Israel will follow developments on the ground and will act accordingly," officials from the Prime Minister's Office said. The response by was noticibly more restrained than that voiced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office last week.

"Any reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas must meet the Quartet's conditions – accepting international agreements, recognizing Israel and disarming Hamas," the official saids. "Israel objects to any reconciliation that does not include these components," they said. The Middle East Quartet comprises of the UN, U.S., EU and Russia tasked with mediating Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

"Continued tunnel activity, rocket building and the exporting of terrorism against Israel is in contradiction of the Quartet's conditions and U.S. efforts to restart the diplomatic process," they said.  

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(L to R) Hamas' Saleh al-Aruri, Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, Khaled Fawzi, head of the Egyptian Intelligence services, Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah delegation for the talks, and Fatah's Rawhi Fattouh are pictured following the signing of a reconciliation deal at the Egyptian intelligence services headquarters in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements ended their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt.
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP

They stressed that in addition to complying with the Quartet's conditions, Israel demands the immediate release of the Israeli civilians held by Hamas, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, and the remains of killed Israel Defense Forces soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin. The sources added that Israel will continue to hold Hamas responsible for any attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip, but they added that if the reconciliation agreement comes to fruition and the PA returns to control the Strip, then it, too, would be held responsible.

"So long as Hamas does not disarm and continues to call for the destruction of Israel, Israel sees it responsible for all acts of terrorism originating in Gaza," the official said. "Israel demands that the Palestinian authority not allow Hamas to maintain any terrorist activity from the PA's territories in Judea and Samaria as well as Gaza, if the Palestinian Authority indeed is to be responsible for its territory."

Palestinian unity

Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have reached a reconciliation agreement, Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh announced on Thursday.

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas commented that the deal constituted "a declaration of the end to division and a return to national Palestinian unity."

The agreement, which followed two days of intensive negotiations at the headquarters of Egyptian intelligence in Cairo, focused on the integration of Hamas officials into the Palestinian Authority's relevant ministries, the rebuilding of Gaza's police system, and the joint management of the strip's crossings.

The issue of introducing a joint PA, Hamas presence at Gaza's border crossings is key in efforts to encourage Israel and Egypt to lift the economic blockade that is currently in place over the strip. 

Representatives of both organizations held a press conference and short signing ceremony divulging details of the agreement. The press conference was recorded ahead of time. Shortly before its broadcast, Egyptian television published pictures of the head of the two delegations Azzam al-Ahmad and Salah Al-Arouri signing the reconciliation agreement in the presence of Egyptian intelligence minister, Khaled Fawzy. The issue of Hamas' military wing and wider political strategies are only to be discussed at a later date.

Al-Ahmad, the head of Fatah's delegation, said at the conference: "There is agreement to return the Palestinian government to the Gaza Strip. What's important now is to implement the particulars of the agreement so that the government will fully function. The Egyptian attempt this time was different from all the preceding ones, and it's clear to everyone that Egypt is the national guarantor of security for the Arab world."