Now Is the Chance for Israel and Palestinians to Renew the Peace Talks

The Palestinian Authority's return to Gaza and its commitment to the two-state solution should be seen by Israel as an opportunity.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Kerry and Abbas in Ramallah, September, 26, 2014.
Kerry and Abbas in Ramallah, September, 26, 2014.Credit: AP
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Four months after barring Gazan cabinet ministers from attending the swearing-in of the Palestinian reconciliation government in Ramallah, the Netanyahu government this week allowed cabinet members from the West Bank to travel through Israel to a cabinet meeting in the Gaza Strip.

Three months after Israel sabotaged the transfer of payment for the salaries of officials in the Gaza government – a step that further roiled the waters in the West Bank – the Palestinian reconciliation government is expected to meet its payroll obligations. Today’s conference of donor states in Cairo is meant to place the authority and responsibility for rebuilding the Gaza Strip in the hands of the joint Fatah-Hamas government.

At the New York meeting where the Cairo conference was arranged, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi sat next to Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah of the Palestinian unity government.

Israel’s political leaders should be commended for acceding to the pleas of international bodies – chief among them the United States, the European Union and Egypt – to allow the Palestinian reconciliation government to handle Gaza’s reconstruction. The decision makers in Jerusalem presumably came to realize that conditioning the reconstruction on an agreement that included the disarmament of the Strip was a nonstarter. As it turns out, the Palestinian Authority is the only entity willing to take responsibility for supervising the introduction of construction materials into Gaza, and ensuring that they are not used to build new tunnels.

This willingness to allow the reconciliation government to oversee the reconstruction efforts, and the de facto recognition of that government, does not at this point indicate a change in Israeli policy toward the intra-Palestinian reconciliation, however. The cabinet decision in April to suspend negotiations over a final settlement with the Palestinians, made in response to the declaration of the reconciliation agreement, still stands. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his spokesmen criticized the United States and other countries for announcing their willingness to cooperate with the new Palestinian government. In his most recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, and in media interviews, Netanyahu accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of forging an alliance with an organization that is a twin to Islamic State.

As Abbas declared at the swearing-in ceremony, the Palestinian government convening in Gaza is committed to the principle of two states based on the 1967 borders, renouncing violence and honoring the agreements signed with Israel. The PA’s return to Gaza and Abbas’ upcoming visit to Gaza are opportunities to renew negotiations toward ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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