Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu skeptical on Palestinian unity deal
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL, March 18, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poured cold water Thursday on the prospect of a deal between the Palestinian authority and Hamas producing a viable peace partner, Al Arabiya News Channel reported on Friday.
In a CNN interview aired Thursday, Netanyahu said he would be willing to negotiate with Hamas if it tore up its constitution and renounced a threat to annihilate the Jewish state, but he dismissed that as all but impossible.
“Can you imagine a peace deal with Al-Qaeda? Of course not,” he said when asked about the possibility of a workable administration involving Hamas, the Islamist group which now controls Gaza.
“Hamas has a constitution. If it tore it up — and the constitution calls for the annihilation of Israel (and) the expansion of radical Islam throughout the region — if they got rid of that, yes I could contemplate that,” he said.
“If they stopped firing rockets, or importing now rockets to launch on our cities… if they stopped terrorism, if they stopped calling for our eradication, yes, of course we’ll be happy to talk to them.
“But the fact is that Hamas has not stopped being Hamas. Hamas continues to call for our liquidation.”
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said Wednesday that he was “ready to go to Gaza tomorrow” to end the division between his Fatah movement and Hamas, after the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, urged “immediate” talks.
The Palestinian president said he was ready to delay the formation of a new cabinet in order to give Hamas a chance to join a unity government in a move that was swiftly welcomed by the Islamists.
The reconciliation moves came after tens of thousands of Palestinians, inspired by the wave of protests rocking the Arab world, rallied in both Gaza and the West Bank to demand reunification.
The two territories have been effectively riven in two since Hamas seized Gaza from forces loyal to Abbas in June 2007.
But Netanyahu signaled that Israel would not be able to negotiate with any administration that included Hamas.
“So what am I going to negotiate with them, the method of our decapitation, the method of their exterminating us? Of course not. Any country would take a stand against somebody that’s committed to its obliteration.”
Britain’s foreign secretary has urged Israel’s defense minister to return to peace talks with Palestinians and voiced concern about settlement construction.
William Hague says he told Defense Minister Ehud Barak – who is visiting London – that Britain is seriously concerned about Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. He said the settlements “run contrary to peace.”
The two leaders met for talks Thursday. Hague said in a statement that they also discussed developments in Libya and Egypt, as well as the recent seizure of an arms shipment, allegedly bound from Iran to Gaza.
Hague said that if the shipment did originate in Iran it would offer further evidence of its intent to disrupt regional stability.