Report: Netanyahu, US plan anti-unity ‘diplomatic campaign’

April 29, 2011

TEL AVIV (Ma’an) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed a visiting delegation of US lawmakers Thursday to join him in measures against the Palestinian unity deal, according to Israeli media reports.

The meeting saw a decision to push a diplomatic campaign, focusing on the European Union, to undermine international recognition of the unity government between rival Hamas and Fatah factions, Israeli daily Haaretz cited senior Israeli government officials saying.

Netanyahu told the seven US Congress members, who had come to Israel on a bipartisan delegation, that “Israel would not recognize any government in the world that included members from Al-Qaida,” the report said.

The Prime Minister also said the United States should block aid to a Palestinian government that does not recognize Israel or renounce terror, quoting remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in April 2009, saying that these were preconditions for talks or economic support.

Israeli military and intelligence officials joined the meeting of visiting Congress members, and told the delegation Hamas had signed the unity deal due to fears of instability in its allied regime, Syria, according to Haaretz’ report.

After 18 months of largely fruitless reconciliation talks, delegations from Hamas and Fatah meeting in Cairo on Wednesday announced a deal to form an interim unity government of technocrats with a view to holding presidential and legislative elections within a year.

The deal raises the prospect of an end to the devastating political divide that has seen the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority govern the West Bank while the Islamist Hamas movement control the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak vowed Thursday not to recognize a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, with Netanyahu warning President Mahmoud Abbas must chose between peace with Israel and Hamas. Senior US congress members decried the unity move and immediately threatened to axe millions in funding for the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian-Israeli Knesset member Ahmad At-Tibi responded on Thursday saying, “Threats by Netanyahu and the US Congress against the Palestinians in light of the reconciliation agreement are arrogant, hypocritical and Israeli chutzpa,” according to a report in Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post.

Tibi continued, “In Israel, they sanctify the value of national unity, but demand that the Palestinians remain divided and weak. Palestinian unity will promote the goals of the Palestinian people to achieve freedom and independence.”

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