Netanyahu breaks off peace talks over Palestinian pact with Hamas. US may suspend PLO recognition
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday night, April 23, that Israel is breaking off peace talks with the Palestinians pending reassessment of the process after Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah signed a unity pact with Hamas in Gaza City. A special foreign affairs and defense cabinet meeting takes place Thursday to decide how to handle this change in the Palestinian status.
The United States informed Abbas that if Hamas and Jihad Islami, both listed as terrorist organizations, were co-opted to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Washington would discontinue its annual recognition of the PLO.
Fatah PLO members from the West Bank, headed by Azzam al-Ahmad, and Hamas, led by Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniya and deputy party leader Mussa Abu Marzuq, signed a pact in Gaza City Wednesday, April 23, to establish a unity government “within five weeks” and hold presidential and parliamentary elections in six months.
They carefully sidestepped the tough issues, such as the choice of prime minister, Hamas’s missile arsenal and the united government’s political strategy.
This is not the first power-sharing pact Fatah and Hamas have signed and is unlikely to be the last.
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in advance that he must choose between peace negotiations with Israel and a unity accord with the radical Hamas, which is totally opposed to negotiations with Israel and refuses to renounce force.
Yet Netanyahu did nothing to prevent a Fatah delegation traveling from Ramallah to Gaza City through Israel. Neither did he follow through on his threat of sanctions against high-ranking Palestinian officials for their unilateral application to UN bodies in violation of their pledges to Israel and their peace broker, US Secretary of State John Kerry. Application of the travel sanction, for instance, would have stopped Assam al Ahmad from reaching Gaza City.
These questions, put by debkafile, betray the ridiculous state of the current Middle East peace process and the muddled, illogical steps pursued by Abbas, who seems to be firing frenziedly in all directions.
Two months ago, after posting Palestinian membership applications to 15 UN bodies, Abbas sent one of his trusties, Jibril Rajoub, to Tehran to start a dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and Iran.
He came back with a fresh assortment of gems: “If the Palestinians had a nuclear bomb they would drop it on Israel,”he remarked, and “Hitler could have taken lessons from Israel on how to build concentration camps.”
Yet he continued to travel around Israel on a VIP pass and was invited to speak on Israeli television and radio where he disseminated a message of moderation and tolerance in the name of his master.
Tuesday, April 22, Abu Mazen invited Israel reporters to his office in Ramallah to lay down new conditions for extending negotiations for three months beyond the April 29 deadline, although by then his representatives were on their way to Gaza City. One condition was to devote all future discussions to the question of borders.
He also announced that he was ready to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and hand the keys over to Israel, a threat which soon proved to be unfeasible.
Kerry and Netanyahu’s emissary to the peace talks, Yitzhak Molcho, say that hundreds of hours have been spent at the table turning over every last detail of the future borders of the Palestinian state, including Jerusalem, and laying out the areas to be swapped.
The demands, conditions, stipulations and decisions pouring out of Abu Mazen’s office in the last month or so have persuaded everyone concerned that the Palestinian leader’s mind is in a total muddle. No one in Jerusalem or Washington can figure out what he wants. And even his closest aides believe that he doesn’t know his own mind and are afraid of what he may dream up next.
In Gaza City, meanwhile, his Fatah and the rival Hamas celebrated their umpteenth unity pact in nine years, although not a single clause of any of the foregoing documents was ever implemented.
This one is different in one critical sense. Leaving aside its deleterious impact on the peace process with Israel, it means that Abu Mazen has publicly allied himself and his party with the fundamentalist Hamas, whose Gaza domain is under Egyptian army siege for abetting and hiding fugitive Muslim Brotherhood activists. Gaza’s Hamas rulers have granted the Brothers a base for running terrorist networks in Cairo and other Egyptian cities.
As an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas is also condemned as a foe by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. How to explain the logic of Mahmoud Abbas’s resort to such dangerous lengths to avoid peace talks with Israel by placing the entire Palestinian movement in opposition to the leading Arab governments?