Tuesday, August 04 2015

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Israel halts contacts with Palestinians over Fatah-Hamas unity

Ze'ev Elkin with Benjamin NetanyahuIsraeli cabinet decided on Friday to halt peace talks with the Palestinians because of Fatah-Hamas unity and agreement to form a technocrat government backed by Hamas.

In a statement released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office after a six-hour meeting for the Israeli reduced cabinet, Israel announced it would stop peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) government.

"The cabinet today unanimously decided that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for Israel's destruction," the statement said.

An Israeli official was quoted by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth as saying: "Negotiations became impossible. Abbas [PA President] has gone a step too far. There will be no political contacts with the Palestinians."

Israel Hayom said that the resolution was supported by all members of the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet: Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and others.

However, Israel would not completely close the door with the Palestinians and said it would not cause the collapse of the PA. Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni said: "Sanctions will be measured. We will not cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse."

Israeli officials Surprised

Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the Israeli diplomatic and military officials were surprised by the announcement of the unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas.

"We were busy with the warning by Mahmoud Abbas to dismantle the Palestinian Authority," a source told the newspaper. "The intelligence had not updated the political echelon about developments in talks between Hamas and the PA."

The source added: "It was quite simply a foul-up - we did not know what was going on."

Military officials also voiced their surprise about the agreement. They said they were tracking the incidents, but that they "did not know on which day this would happen. We did not even know for sure that there would be an announcement."

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