Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister said Tuesday he is “deeply troubled” by the United States’ decision to maintain relations with the new Palestinian unity government, urging Washington to tell the Palestinian president that his alliance with the Hamas militant group is unacceptable.
The blunt language used by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reflected his dismay over the international community’s embrace of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ new unity government, and marked the latest in a string of disagreements between Netanyahu and the White House.
Netanyahu has urged the world to shun the government because it is backed by Hamas, an Islamic group that has killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks over the past two decades. But late Monday, both the U.S. and European Union said they would give Abbas a chance.
“I’m deeply troubled by the announcement that the United States will work with the Palestinian government backed by Hamas,” Netanyahu told The Associated Press, saying the group has murdered “countless innocent civilians.”
“All those who genuinely seek peace must reject President Abbas’ embrace of Hamas, and most especially, I think the United States must make it absolutely clear to the Palestinian president that his pact with Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s liquidation, is simply unacceptable,” he said.
Asked whether Israel is lobbying its allies to change their position toward the unity government, an Israeli official said the government is “definitely in a conversation with the U.S. and other world powers, sharing our views on how to deal with the Palestinian government.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the diplomatic effort with the media.
Israel and the West have branded Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, a terrorist group. But Israel’s allies in Washington and Europe have said they will maintain ties to the new government — and continue sending hundreds of millions of dollars in aid — as long as it renounces violence and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
Abbas says the new Cabinet is committed to these principles. It is made up of apolitical technocrats who have no ties to Hamas, which has agreed to support the government from the outside.
Abbas’ Fatah movement and Hamas formed the new government Monday in a major step toward ending a seven-year rift that left the Palestinians divided between two governments.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from Abbas’ forces in June 2007, leaving him in control only of autonomous areas of the West Bank. The Palestinians claim the two areas, along with Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, for an independent state. Israel captured the territories in 1967.
The Palestinian rift is considered a major obstacle to statehood. Many in Israel itself have long used it to argue that a deal with Abbas is not credible because he doesn’t govern all the Palestinians.
As U.S.-backed peace talks collapsed in late April, Abbas decided to focus on getting internal Palestinian affairs in order and reached the reconciliation deal with Hamas.
The world community’s reaction suggests a general sense that the reconciliation might constitute an elegant solution to a conundrum: While few countries back Hamas, the group seems here to stay. And since Hamas will probably not formally accept the existence of Israel anytime soon, its backing of a government that Abbas says does might be seen as a step forward.MORE IN Wire News
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