Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted Thursday in discussions with a visiting delegation of U.S. Congress members that the United States should consider stopping economic aid to the Palestinian Authority if a Hamas-Fatah unity government did not recognize Israel and renounce terror, calling the move “outrageous.”
Netanyahu also told the seven U.S. lawmakers that Israel would not recognize a Palestinian unity government if it did not meet these conditions. “Israel would not recognize any government in the world that included members from Al-Qaida”.
“I wish the flow of events was in the other direction,” he told the delegation headed by Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel from New York.
Netanyahu quoted remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in April 2009, that Israel would not hold talks with or economically support a Palestinian government, including Hamas, until Hamas recognized Israel and abandoned violence.
Netanyahu said Israel expected the international community to make it clear that Hamas had to meet the three Quartet benchmarks for recognition: recognizing Israel, forswearing terrorism and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
The prime minister’s meeting with the US lawmakers came amid a day of intense discussion with top cabinet ministers regarding how best to react to the surprise Palestinian reconciliation announcement.
“This is very serious,” one government official said, summing up the day of talks. “This is seen not as a tactical change, but rather a strategic one – a game changer. How can the Palestinian leadership say they want peace with Israel, and at the same time embrace the most extreme, violent enemies of peace?” One of the matters being discussed is the fate of the existing security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, if indeed Hamas is brought back into the PA. The relative security quiet over the past few months in the West Bank has been attributed partly to this cooperation, and to the PA’s rounding up of Hamas activists.
There is also a great deal of concern in Jerusalem that the Fatah-Hamas agreement will include as one of its clauses the release of Hamas prisoners in PA jails, something that would put dozens of terrorists back on the streets in Judea and Samaria and call into question the value of the security cooperation.