Middle East peace: Israel breaks off talks with Palestinians over Fatah deal with Hamas

Netanyahu suspends contact, claiming Abbas has forged an agreement with terrorists

Beirut

Israel has suspended diplomatic contact with the Palestinians, putting the troubled Middle East peace process on ice in response to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s national unity deal on Wednesday with the militant Hamas movement.

“Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen [Mr Abbas] made an agreement with a murderous terror organisation that calls for the destruction of Israel,” the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “He who chooses terror does not want peace.”

A cabinet statement issued after a six-hour meeting said: “The cabinet decided unanimously that Israel will not conduct negotiations with a Palestinian government reliant on Hamas.”

The Haaretz newspaper quoted a senior official as saying that peace talks, which have been in a profound crisis, would be suspended until the make-up of the new Palestinian cabinet is clear.

According to the agreement between Fatah and Hamas, Mr Abbas has five weeks to form a government of technocrats that will prepare for presidential and legislative elections to be held at least six months later. But analysts have cautioned that the agreement may never be implemented due to persisting differences between the two movements.

At first glance, the pact aims to end a situation of rival governments in the West Bank, where Fatah is dominant, and in Hamas-led Gaza. The schism ensued from Hamas’s armed takeover of Gaza from Mr Abbas’s Fatah movement in 2007. But on examination it does not resolve any of the differences that have bedevilled relations between the two groups, including the stance towards Israel and on power-sharing.

The Israeli official said that Israel will be gauging whether the new government accepts conditions set for dealing with Hamas by the international community, namely that it recognise Israel, renounce violence and honour previous agreements signed between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel. Mr Abbas assured a senior UN Official, Robert Serry, that the agreement would be implemented under his leadership and would meet those conditions, Mr Serry's office said. The UN official then welcomed the reconciliation, including “long overdue” elections.

Israeli media reports said the government also decided to open a public relations campaign to vilify Mr Abbas, who advocates non-violent resistance and diplomacy to end occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state. Mr Netanyahu stressed that the Palestinian leader “reached an agreement with a group whose charter calls upon Muslims to fight Jews and kill them”. Hamas, he said, had fired more than 10,000 missiles from Gaza and “did not cease for a moment its terrorist actions. He who chooses the terror of Hamas does not want peace.”

Israel also decided to reaffirm and expand financial steps against the PA, including halting transfers of tax funds it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf. Naftali Bennett, the far-right economy minister, termed the cabinet decisions “balanced”. “You do not talk to murderers,” he said.

Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the politics committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a supporter of Mr Abbas, termed the Israeli decision “the height of hypocrisy”.

“Before they would say you can’t make an agreement with the Palestinian Authority because they don’t control all their territory, and now they say you can’t negotiate because there is reconciliation with Hamas. Abbas is trying to widen the base for supporting peacemaking, to bring Hamas into the fold, while the Israeli policies aim to destroy the negotiations.”

Mr Abbas also received a warning from Washington over the unity deal. A senior administration official said the US would reassess its hundreds of millions of dollars in financial assistance to the PA if Hamas and the PLO form a government together. “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that doesn’t recognise its right to exist,’’ said the State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Analysts in both Israel and the Palestinian self-rule areas believe Mr Abbas opted for unity with Hamas as a tactic to pressure Israel into agreeing to his conditions for extending the faltering peace negotiations, which entered a severe crisis on 29 March when Israel failed to fulfil a commitment to release a group of Palestinian prisoners. Mr Abbas responded by joining 15 international conventions and treaties, angering Israel, but the two sides had still maintained contacts to find a formula to extend the negotiations after next Tuesday, the date their span expires.

In addition to the release of the prisoners, the Palestinian leader was seeking a freeze on illegal Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.

“I don’t think Hamas or Abbas seriously intend to implement the agreement,” said Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research. “Both need it for immediate tactical reasons.” Hamas was anxious to boost its standing following the ousting of its main ally, the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, while Mr Abbas “wanted to improve his negotiating position” with Israel, he said.

“Abbas has to state to the Americans and Israelis what the platform will be, whether it continues security co-ordination with Israel. Once he begins to clarify his position, Hamas will have to decide if this is something it can tolerate,” Mr Shikaki said.

Other analysts believe Mr Abbas may be motivated by a desire to hold elections to renew his legitimacy after nine years in office. Polling has been impossible because of the inter-Palestinian rift. “Israel is viewing things with the mentality of a military governor without realising that space is needed for Mr Abbas to maintain his leadership, credibility and legitimacy,” said Mahdi Abdul-Hadi, director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs.

Ido Zelkovitz, a scholar at Mitvim, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, argued that Palestinian reconciliation would be good for Israel. “The Israeli right wing has claimed there is no use is signing a peace agreement with Mahmoud Abbas because he represents only part of the Palestinian people. The reconciliation agreement can put Abbas in a different position in which he holds all the cards. Israel should treat the Palestinian reconciliation process as an opportunity, not a threat.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot