Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt communicated US demands that Hamas recognize Israel if the PA is to unite with it.
The US welcomed the reconciliation efforts between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, but stressed that “any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, [and] recognition of the state of Israel.”
Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt said in a statement on Monday that the US “welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza.”
It added that any Palestinian government must also accept previous agreements between the parties.
Greenblatt was remarking on the visit by Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the Gaza Strip on Monday, his first since 2014, as the PA and its rival, the Hamas terror group which rules Gaza, initiated the first steps in forming a unity government.
Hamdallah’s visit is intended as the first symbolic move towards transferring custodianship of the coastal territory from Hamas to the PA.
This is by far the most ambitious attempt at Palestinian reconciliation since Hamas violently seized power of the coastal strip from Fatah in 2007, leaving the Palestinians torn between rival governments. Hamas has ruled Gaza, while Abbas’ party has controlled autonomous enclaves in the Judea and Samaria area.
There was no immediate comment from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett: Cut PA Funding
Minister of Education Naftali Bennett called on Israel to cease its transfer of tax payments to the PA following its unity with Hamas.
Bennett, a member of the Security Cabinet, on Tuesday demanded that the cabinet immediately vote to stop the transfer of taxes Israeli collects on the PA’s behalf after its move towards unity with the Hamas terror group and after its ascension to Interpol last week, a move Israel viewed as diplomatic belligerence on the Palestinians’ behalf.
“Israel should cease to serve as an ATM for terrorism,” Bennett stated, explaining that the reconciliation isn’t about Palestinian unity, it’s about “Abu Mazen [PA head Mahmoud Abbas] joining forces with a murderous terror group.”
“Transferring funds to the Hamas government is like transferring funds from Israel to ISIS [the Islamic State terror group]. We will receive missiles [fired by Hamas] in return for those funds,” Bennett warned.
Israel, which collects taxes for the PA as part of the Oslo Peace Accords, has frozen PA assets several times in the past in retaliation for anti-Israel actions.
Bennett said that Israel should present three demands before transferring the funds: that Hamas recognize Israel, that it return the bodies of two IDF soldiers it has in its possession and that the PA cease to pay salaries to terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons.
The reconciliation with Hamas, which is still committed to terrorism against Israel, would put the PA at odds with the Quartet’s Roadmap for Peace which outlines the necessary conditions for peace with Israel.
The Quartet principles were endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, and require Palestinian leadership to issue an “unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate end to all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere.”
In a press briefing hosted by The Israel Project last week, former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams noted that President Donald Trump was “quite unhappy with the behavior of Mahmoud Abbas during the Temple Mount incident, where he could have spoken in ways that would have ended the crisis. Instead his rhetoric was hot.” According to Abrams, Abbas’s actions “really changed their [the Trump administration’s] opinion of him.”