Israel Rules Out Negotiations With Hamas-based Palestinian Gov’t
Israel will refrain from conducting negotiations of any kind with a Palestinian government that incorporates Hamas—unless the terror group agrees to disarm, recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist and abide by previous deals signed with Jerusalem. The statement released by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin’s Office is the strongest yet in the wake of the unity accord signed earlier this month between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas. The two rival factions agreed to restore Abbas’ administrative rule in Gaza as well as control over the key border crossings with Israel and Egypt, although the fate of Hamas’ military wing remains a major sticking point. The international community for the most part backed the deal, believing that it would help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the Strip, pave the way for Palestinian national elections for the first time in over a decade and thereafter facilitate the resumption of peace talks with Israel. In this regard, Jerusalem made clear that prior to engaging in any diplomatic process with the Palestinians Hamas must also return the bodies of two slain Israeli soldiers it is holding; cease all terrorist activity, including in the West Bank; and cut ties with Iran, which finances its military operations. The Netanyahu government has thus far refrained from announcing any punitive measures against Abbas for entering into the pact despite calls by various ministers to fully sever ties with the Palestinian Authority. For its part, Hamas has repeatedly rejected the demand to lay down its arms and remains committed to the Jewish state’s destruction.