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April 25, 2014  RSS feed
World News

Text: T T T

Israel formally suspends talks with Palestinians

Staff and wire reports

WASHINGTON — Israel formally suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority over the national unity accord signed with the Hamas authority in the Gaza Strip.

“The Cabinet today unanimously decided that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction,” said a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released April 24.

“In addition, Israel will respond to unilateral Palestinian action with a series of measures,” it said, without outlining the measures. In the past, responses have included accelerated settlement building and suspending tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority.

The Fatah party, led by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, on Wednesday signed an agreement with Hamas that would lead to a unity government within five weeks.

Previous Hamas-Fatah accords have collapsed – in 2007, into a civil war.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials both in Congress and the Obama administration warned of the possible consequences of such an accord with Hamas, designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the timing “disappointing” and said it could scuttle a U.S. bid to resume its negotiations. “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist,” said Psaki.

Further, several Congressional leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, warned the decision would lead to the U.S. withdrawing aid to the Palestinians. Among those was Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the chairwoman of the House Middle East subcommittee. “The Administration must halt aid to the Palestinian Authority and condition any future assistance as leverage to force Abu Mazen to abandon this reconciliation with Hamas and to implement real reforms within the P.A.,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) added in a Tweet that he believes the U.S. government should not deal with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless Hamas “renounces violence and recognizes Israel.”

The Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed earlier this month after Israel failed to meet a March 29 deadline to release the final 26 of 104 Palestinian prisoners it had pledged to release when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reconvened talks last July. Abbas in turn applied to join 15 international conventions in violation of his agreement not to do so as long as talks were underway.

Netanyahu said in his statement that Israel, at the behest of Kerry, was attempting to restart the talks when Hamas and Fatah signed the accord.

“Abu Mazen has formed an alliance with an organization whose covenant calls for Muslims to fight and kill Jews,” Netanyahu said of Abbas. “Hamas has fired more than 10,000 missiles and rockets at Israeli territory and has not halted terrorist actions against Israel even for a minute.”

The negotiations are scheduled to end on April 29. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had met several times in recent days in an attempt to extend the talks, which started last summer.

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