Barak Reiterates: Israel Won't Talk to Palestinian Government That Includes Hamas

Defense minister demands Israel's friends in the world also not talk to Hamas, unless group undergoes 'deep and fundamental changes'; Barak says group must dismantle terror infrastructure and accept Quartet conditions.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued an official response on Thursday to the announcement of Palestinian reconciliation, saying there was "no chance that we will talk with this government, if they try to create it."

"Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization that fires rockets on citizens and recently fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus of students," Barak said. "This is an organization with whom there is nothing to discuss, and therefore we will have no discourse with them."

Barak - AP - March 24, 2011

The rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas came to a historic agreement on Wednesday, when they announced a decision to reconcile and form an interim government ahead of elections, after a four-year feud. Both sides hailed the agreement as a chance to start a fresh page in their national history.

Earlier in the day, Barak had said that Israel should negotiate with the planned Fatah-Hamas Palestinian unity government only and if it renounces terror activities and recognizes Israel.

In his official statement, the defense minister also demanded that Israel's international friends also refuse to speak with a unity government which includes Hamas, unless the group "undergoes a deep and fundamental change."

Among the changes they would have to undergo, according to Barak, is "give up on terror, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, and accept the conditions of the Quartet."

"This is actually accepting all previous agreements made with Israel," Barak continued and said that Hamas also must show "willingness to negotiate."

"Only with these conditions is there a basis for discussion with Hamas. I don't see this yet happening," Barak said. "Incidentally, I don't yet know if the agreement will indeed be signed. It’s a little early to predict, but we must be prepared for every possibility."

The Palestinian announcement was met with skepticism, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warning that a reconciliation deal could result in a Hamas takeover of the currently PA-ruled West Bank.

Lieberman told Army Radio of his fears that Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, would eventually take over the Palestinian Authority-ruled West Bank as well, making use of Hamas activists freed by Fatah as part of the new agreement.

President Shimon Peres also commented on the burgeoning Palestinian reconciliation agreement on Thursday, saying he felt the deal was a mistake that could prevent the formation of an independent Palestinian state.