Israel refuses to negotiate with Palestinian government
Abbas says consensus ends bitter divisions between Fatah and Hamas
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip hold pictures of Yasser Arafat and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas as they celebrate the announcement of the unity government yesterday. Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters
Israel says it will not negotiate with the Palestinian unity government that was sworn in yesterday by President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mr Abbas said the unity government marked an end to the bitter division between his Fatah party, which rules the West Bank, and the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza.
“Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case,” he said at the ceremony in Ramallah.
The formation of the new government follows the reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas in April – a move that prompted Israel to break off peace talks with the Palestinians.
Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organisation and has also threatened punitive measures, including the withholding of money transfers, against the new government.
“Today, Mr Abbas said yes to terrorism and no to peace. He has forged a pact with Hamas, which is responsible for the murder of over 1,000 innocent Israelis and the firing of thousands of missiles at Israeli cities,” said prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after a special meeting of Israel’s security cabinet.
Mr Netanyahu urged the international community not to endorse the new government, saying such a move would strengthen terrorism. He criticised European governments for condemning the shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels while welcoming a Palestinian government that includes a “terror organisation”.
Mr Abbas has phoned US secretary of state John Kerry and promised him the new government, comprised of technocrats with no political affiliation, would support the peace process and would commit to non-violence.
Mr Kerry, scheduled to meet Mr Abbas tomorrow, expressed concern about the role of Hamas in the new government.
Hamas’s prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said the formation of the unity government marked a “historical day for the Palestinian cause”.
On the ground little will change in the near future. Hamas will continue to control Gaza and its security forces remain intact, although the new government is committed to new elections in the West Bank and Gaza before the year end.