Cabinet votes to nix PA negotiations until Hamas disarms
Security Cabinet convenes to decide against any further negotiations with Palestinians until Hamas is disarmed to avoid bestowing it with legitimacy; other conditions include return of Israeli civilians, bodies of two IDF soldiers, prevent of smuggling; Edu. Min. Bennett: 'PA is a terrorism authority, the focus must now be on the return of soldiers' bodies.'
The cabinet's decision was unanimous. Despite certain claims during the meeting saying Israel should not completely abdicate its responsibility, the eventual decision reached by all in attendance said Israel's position should negate negotiations to avoid providing Hamas with indirect legitimacy.
"Pursuant to previous decisions, the Israeli government will not politically negotiate with a Palestinian government in which Hamas, a terrorist organization calling for the annihilation of Israel, takes part, so long as the following conditions are not met," the Prime Minister's Office announced Tuesday.
"Hamas must recognize Israel and cease terrorism as per the Quartet's terms, Hamas must disarm, bodies of IDF soldiers and living Israeli civilians must be returned from Gaza, the Palestinian Authority must exert full security control over Gaza, including in border crossings and smuggling prevention, and must continue foiling Hamas's terror plots in the West Bank, Hamas must disengage from Iran and, finally, only finances and humanitarian equipment from the Palestinian Authority will be allowed to enter Gaza," the prime minister described Israel's preconditions.
The meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, was a continuation of Monday's meeting that was adjourned due to the Syrian attack of an IAF plane and the IAF's subsequent response attack. During the cabinet meeting, security establishment officials said Palestinian reconciliation has faced innumerable difficulties.
Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, who demanded the cabinet convene to discuss the matter, said this was a strategic decision defining the basic ground rules for any negotiations in light of PA President Mahmoud Abbas joining forces with the Hamas terrorist organization.
Bennett congratulated Netanyahu on adopting the decision considering the PA to be a "terrorism authority" and said Israeli efforts must now be focused on returning civilians and bodies of soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul to Israel while exacting a price for their capture from Hamas and the PA.
Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze'ev Elkin also welcomed the decision. "Abbas is not looking for ways to push peace with Israel forward, preferring instead peace with a terrorist organization. The State of Israel cannot hold any political talks with a Palestinian government built around terrorists," he said.
Following the Cabinet's decision, a senior Palestinian official told Ynet it was merely a "new excuse meant to lead negotiations to a deadlock, since Israel has never wanted the West Bank to reconnect with Gaza."
"It has always been in Israel's interest to keep Gaza separate from the West Bank and weakened," the official added.
Hamas also commented on the decision, saying it constituted "Unlawful Israeli involvement in an internal Palestinian matter. Every Palestinian must not indentify or acquiesce to this crude Israeli interference. The Palestinian response must be continuing to stabilize the internal front for the reconciliation's success."
The reconciliation agreement, signed last week, said civilian control of Gaza, including border crossings into the strip, will be transferred to the Palestinian unity government December 1, after a decade of total Hamas rule over Gaza.
President Abbas instructed the Palestinian government and security forces to work to implement the agreement, called on all factions to work on restoring unity to the Palestinian people and said, "The agreement signed in Cairo will drive plans to end the split."
The agreement was signed under the watchful eye of Egyptian General Intelligence Director Khaled Fawzy, who served as mediator during the negotiations leading up to it.
Fatah's representative to the signing was senior member and holder of reconciliation portfolio Azzam al-Ahmad and Hamas was represented by its deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, who said, "We have decided to take a step-by-step approach to implementing reconciliation. Talks this time were aimed at allowing the unity government to operate fully in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank."
Following the agreement's signing, the Prime Minister's Office said that "Any reconciliation between the PA and Hamas must include honoring international agreements and the Quartet conditions, first and foremost among them recognizing Israel and disarming Hamas. The continued digging of tunnels, missile manufacturing and initiating terrorist attacks against Israel goes against the Quartet's terms and the United States' efforts to renew negotiations."
"Israel demands these terms be met, as well as the immediate release of three Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu, Jumaa Ibrahim Abu-Ghanima and Hisham a-Said and the return of the remains of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin cruelly held by Hamas.
"As long as Hamas does not disarm and continues to call for the destruction of Israel, Israel holds it responsible for all terrorist actions originating in the Gaza Strip," the PMO stated. "Israel insists that the PA not allow any base whatsoever for Hamas terrorist actions from PA areas in Judea and Samaria or from Gaza, if the PA indeed takes responsibility for its territory."
"Israel will monitor developments on the ground and act accordingly," the statement concluded.
Hamas sources told pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that one of the conditions of the agreement is that Fatah and Hamas make decisions on important issues together, such as signing a peace agreement or launching a war against Israel, and that this article included both the West Bank and Gaza.
A Palestinian source close to the talks told Ynet Tuesday Hamas demanded the PA stops arresting its West Bank operatives during the negotiation phase, while Fatah demanded Hamas stop carrying out attacks against Israel from the West Bank proper.