Israeli Prime Minister is calling on world leaders “not to rush” to recognize a Palestinian unity government including Hamas which may be announced as early as Monday.
In his opening remarks at his Sunday cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said, “I call on all responsible elements in the international community not to rush to recognize the Palestinian government of which Hamas is a part and which is dependent on Hamas.”
“Hamas is a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel and the international community must not embrace it. This will not strengthen peace; it will strengthen terrorism,” Netanyahu added.
An unnamed senior Israeli government official earlier told the Times of Israel that the formation of a unity government including Hamas would be “a great leap backward.”
The U.S. and Israel classify Hamas which currently rules Gaza as a terrorist group.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Fatah faction on Saturday said the new Fatah-Hamas government would be announced on Monday; however a Hamas spokesman on Sunday said that the deal had not yet been finalized due to ongoing disagreements between the two Palestinian factions.
Abbas said that Israel had informed the Palestinian Authority that it would take punitive measures against the new government if it includes Hamas, including the possible withholding of tax money Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians. Abbas vowed to respond to any punitive steps, but did not detail how.
“We are going to react to any Israeli action,” Abbas said, according to the Times of Israel. “This is our money, not aid from Israel, and we will not stay silent. They want to punish us because we have an agreement with Hamas, which is part of our people.”
If Abbas takes Hamas into his government, it would also mean a likely halt to the $440 million in direct annual U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.
In an effort to allay western concerns, Abbas has said the new government would be made up of apolitical technocrats.
Another looming question: What would become of Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation in the event Hamas joins the government?
Hamas – which has launched thousands of rockets into southern Israel from Gaza - said on Saturday that it would not agree to continue the joint security effort.
Furthermore, the militant group has vowed in recent weeks that even if it joins Abbas’s government, it will not give up the armed struggle against Israel.