Israeli PM urges world leaders not to recognize Palestinian unity govt
Israel's PM called on world leaders not to recognize the Palestinian unity government to be formed because of its affiliation with the militant group Hamas.
Jerusalem: Israel's prime minister called on world leaders on Sunday not to recognize the Palestinian unity government expected to be formed on Monday because of its affiliation with the militant group Hamas.
Benjamin Netanyahu said the unity government will "strengthen terrorism" because Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel. "The international community must not embrace it," Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says such fears are unfounded, vowing that the government will be comprised entirely of apolitical technocrats and will recognize Israel and renounce violence.
The new government is meant to end a seven-year split between Hamas and Abbas' rival Palestinian movement, Fatah. While Hamas will not sit in the government, it has agreed to back it. Israel says Hamas, identified as a terrorist organization by Israel and the West, cannot play any role in governing the Palestinians until it openly renounces violence.
The Palestinians have been divided between rival governments since Hamas took the Gaza Strip from Abbas' forces in June 2007, leaving the Palestinian president only in control of autonomous areas of the West Bank. The rift is considered a major impediment to any future peace deal.
Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed in the past. But both Palestinian factions now have incentives to finally repair ties. Hamas is in the midst of a major financial crisis due to a blockade imposed by Israel and the Egyptian government.
Abbas, meanwhile, is eager to reconcile following the collapse of the latest round of US-brokered peace talks with Israel in late April. Convinced that he cannot reach peace with Netanyahu, the Palestinian leader believes now is the time to get internal Palestinian affairs in order.
Abbas has said that his new government will be committed to his program of seeking peace, and that he plans on continuing security cooperation between his forces and the Israeli military in the West Bank. He has called these ties, meant to ease friction between the sides, "sacred."
Yet Abbas says Israel already has threatened punitive measures because of the deal. A senior aide to Abbas said Israel had informed the Palestinian leadership that if such a unity government is formed, Cabinet ministers from Gaza would not be permitted to travel to the West Bank and vice versa, that all Palestinian officials' VIP permits which ease passage past military checkpoints would be revoked, and that Israel would consider freezing the monthly transfer of taxes and customs Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians. The West Bank and Gaza are situated on opposite sides of Israel, and movement between the two requires passage through Israeli-controlled crossings.
An Israeli official declined to confirm those claims, but said if Hamas backed the new government, the Israeli government would convene and "we will be taking decisions." Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Azzam al-Ahmad, an aide to Abbas, said the U.S. has invited Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who will lead the new government, to Washington, a gesture that could signal an American willingness to cooperate with the new government.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denied the claim. "We'll not make decisions until we see the final formation of the interim government and have the opportunity to assess and make a determination about whether this is a government we can work with," she said.
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