Alray App
Israel Warns Against Embracing Newly Reconciled Palestinian Government
  • OP-Eds
  • 08:06 02 June 2014
Israel Warns Against Embracing Newly Reconciled Palestinian Government
related post


JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called on the international community on Sunday “not to run to recognize” the new Palestinian government scheduled to be sworn in Monday, saying it “rests on Hamas,” the militant Islamic faction that Israel and much of the West deem a terrorist organization.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has insisted that while the new government is the fruit of a reconciliation pact that his Palestine Liberation Organization signed six weeks ago with Hamas, the government will be made up of ministers who are not tied to political factions. He told Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone call Sunday that it would “represent the political agenda of the president,” according to WAFA, Palestinian news agency, meaning it would recognize Israel and renounce violence — as Hamas refuses to do.


But Mr. Abbas said Saturday that Israel had nonetheless informed him that it would “boycott us,” and Ehab Bessaiso, a spokesman for the Palestinian government in Ramallah , said Sunday, “We are expecting some hard times to come in the next few weeks.”

Israeli officials said no decisions had yet been made regarding sanctions against the new government or how the change would affect day-to-day interactions with Palestinians. But Israel has already denied permits for the three nominated ministers who live in the Gaza Strip, which has been under Hamas rule since 2007, to travel through its territory to attend Monday’s ceremony in the West Bank, something a spokesman ascribed to “issues of politics.”

A senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of getting ahead of the decision-makers, said, “We’re entering a new reality.”

“The question is what happens once the marriage is consummated — I think that’s a new ballgame,” he said. “In a situation that wasn’t too good to begin with, it makes the ice that much thinner.”

The reconciliation pact, intended to repair a fierce seven-year rift between Hamas and Mr. Abbas’s Fatah faction and to reunite the Palestinian geographic territories under one rule, prompted Israel to halt the stalemated American-brokered peace negotiations on April 24. Now the focus turns to whether the new government can deliver overdue Palestinian elections after six months as promised — and, in the shorter term, whether it can persuade Egypt to reopen Gaza’s southern Rafah crossing and address the fuel shortages and skyrocketing unemployment that have plagued the coastal strip for months.

And there may yet be disputes to resolve. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, issued a statement early Monday morning warning that the faction does not “accept the declaration of the government Monday” if, as reported in the local news media, it would not include a ministry for prisoner affairs, transferring that responsibility to the P.L.O.

Earlier on Sunday, Hamas officials had said that the ministers who had formed a shadow government in Gaza would immediately return to their posts within the political party or as university professors; Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister, will be known simply as “deputy leader” of the movement.

The fate of more than 100,000 public-sector workers, generally two for every job, remains unclear. Similarly, uncertainty exists about the duplicate services, such as the two checkpoints — one run by Hamas and one by the Palestinian Authority — at the Erez crossing into Israel.

Among the other critical questions is how the new government will be regarded by Washington and the West.

The United States is scheduled to provide $440 million to the Palestinian Authority this year, but it is barred from funding any “government that includes Hamas as a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises ‘undue influence,’ ” according to theCongressional Research Service, unless the president provides a waiver. The State Department — like the European Union — has indicated openness to dealing with the new government so long as it follows Mr. Abbas’s line.

Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said Mr. Kerry had expressed concern to Mr. Abbas in their phone conversation Sunday about Hamas’s role. “The secretary stated that the United States would monitor the situation closely and judge any government based on its composition, policies and actions,” Ms. Psaki said.

But Mr. Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Hamas “is a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel, and the international community must not embrace it.”

The senior Israeli official noted that the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia all considered Hamas a terrorist organization and that “there are legal implications” as well as political ones “for passing money to a terrorist group.”

Though Israel has taken a hard line against the new government, it must strike a delicate balance, since the withdrawal of international aid could lead to a collapse of the Palestinian Authority. That would leave Israel responsible for the Palestinians’ education, health care and economy.

So far, the sanctions have been symbolic. Israel withheld some $6 million of the approximately $160 million in monthly taxes it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf after the reconciliation pact was signed. It declared that Israeli officials would no longer meet their Palestinian counterparts, but such tasks were simply transferred from individual ministries to the Civil Administration, which handles relations with the West Bank, according to the agency’s spokesman, Guy Inbar.

“No project is delayed or canceled,” said Mr. Inbar, noting that there had recently been joint meetings to discuss tourism and telecommunications.

Mr. Bessaiso, the Palestinian spokesman, said he expected more tax revenue to be withheld, and the cancellation of V.I.P. permits that allow top officials to travel more easily around the West Bank and into Jerusalem. There will be 16 ministers under Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, he said, some handling more than one portfolio.“Trying to portray this government as containing Hamas, and Hamas is a terrorist organization and so on, it’s not the situation on the ground,” Mr. Bessaiso said. “We call on the international community to recognize this government and to continue its support of the Palestinian people.”