With peace efforts bordering on total collapse due to the recent reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Gaza based terror organization said it would consider recognizing Israel.
Taher al-Nunu, a spokesperson for Hamas and media adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Hanieyh, told The Washington Post that Hamas has not ruled out the possibility of recognizing Israel. Nunu explained that the recent unity agreement between the opposing Palestinian factions was meant to focus on how to better the lives of the Palestinian people and not on external political issues.
In a speech on Saturday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated that the new Palestinian government would recognize Israel and uphold international agreements. Speaking at a meeting of the PLO Central Council in Ramallah, Abbas outlined the new unity government, explaining he would lead an independent, technocratic government free of Hamas and Fatah politicians.
Abbas emphasized that the new government would take no part in negotiations with Israel. “That is not its concern, that [falls within] the PLO’s authority,” Abbas said.
“At the same time, I recognize Israel and it will recognize Israel. I reject violence and it will reject violence. I recognize the legitimacy of international agreements and it will recognize them,” the PA president said. “The government is committed to what I am committed. No one should claim now that it’s a government of terror.”
However, Abbas said that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a non-negotiable demand made repeatedly by Netanyahu.
Regarding peace talks with Israel, Abbas said that he would agree to extend negotiations with Israel beyond its April 29 deadline should Israel meet Palestinian demands. Abbas has demanded that Israel freeze all settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, free the fourth batch of Palestinian terrorist prisoners, and discuss future borders of a Palestinian state.
Abbas accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for purposely thwarting peace talks. He claimed that Netanyahu did not support Palestinian unity and wanted the political rift between the West Bank and Gaza Strip to endure.
“The Israelis agreed to the rift, supported and loved the division. And why? Because every time we came to negotiate with Israel, it said ‘But with whom will we speak, with Gaza or the West Bank?’ So we made reconciliation. Now they tell us to choose between Gaza and negotiations. But this is our people, this is our land,” Abbas said.
Israel and the United States have both designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. Israel suspended peace talks on Thursday, saying it would “not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terror organization that calls for the destruction of Israel.”
On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that U.S. led peace talks were in a “holding period” as both the Palestinians and Israel decided their next moves. The U.S. has threatened the PA with severe repercussions should it align with Hamas.
Democrat and Republican congressional leaders have indicated that any agreement between the PA and Hamas would force the U.S. to suspend approximately $400 million in security and economic aid to the Palestinians.
The PA’s chief negotiator refuted Hamas’s designation as a terror organization, saying it never was and never will be a terror group. In an interview with Sky News, Saeb Erekat said that “Hamas is not and never will be a terrorist organization to us.”
Erekat added that Hamas does not need to recognize Israel as a Jewish state since there are many parties in Israel that do not recognize the state of Palestine.
“Has Netanyahu asked the Jewish Home party [an Orthodox-nationalist coalition partner] to recognize the state of Palestine?” Erekat asked. “Has Netanyahu himself recognized the state of Palestine? [Yair] Lapid [head of the centrist Yesh Atid coalition party] has not recognized the state of Palestine. Thus Hamas is not required to recognize Israel.”