Monday, September 28, 2020

Israel dismayed as international community gives tentative welcome to unity government

By Beth Staton - June 05, 2014
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Fatah] [Hamas] [US foreign policy] [Benjamin Netanyahu]

Photo by Lazar Simeonov.
The Palestinian unity government, announced Monday, has been met with a cautious welcome from the international community, in a development that has both angered and embarrassed Israeli officials.
The EU, UN and USA have all agreed to work with the new Palestinian body – a coalition of unaffiliated ministers, who will manage affairs until elections planned for five months' time – despite the fact that it is backed by Hamas. 
Israel, on the other hand, committed to a boycott against the government as soon as it was announced, and reportedly enacted sanctions, including reducing taxes, withholding VIP travel cards, and refusing travel permits between Gaza and the West Bank. Today, the government announced an additional 1,500 settlement homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem – a move described by housing minister Uri Ariel as the “proper Zionist response to the establishment of the Palestinian terror cabinet.”
Israeli authorities stated a refusal to work with a party considered a terrorist organisation by much of the international community. It was only after the gradual emergence of international reaction that this hardline rejection began to look anomalous. 
In a statement, the EU High Commission said it welcomed “the appointment of a government of independent personalities,” as well as the declaration “that this new government is committed to the principle of the two state solution based on the 1967 borders, to the recognition of Israel's legitimate right to exist, to non-violence and to the respect of previous agreements.” 
The conciliatory approach was echoed by other international officials. While cooperation has been embraced, it has generally been premised on commitment to Quartet principles. Laid down as conditions for the diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian government, they demand recognition of Israel, a rejection of violence and commitment to the outcome of previous negotiations. 
US State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf stressed that Hamas were not a part of the interim government. “Most of the key cabinet positions, including the prime minister, the two deputy prime ministers and the finance minister, are the same as in the prior government. They are all technocrats unaffiliated with any political party and are responsible for facilitating new elections," she said. 
"President Abbas made clear that this new technocratic government was committed to the principles of nonviolence, negotiations, recognition of the state of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and Quartet principles and prior obligations between the two parties, and finally to continue security coordination with Israel."
US cooperation will continue, “as appropriate,” and those involved will be “watching carefully” as the situation develops, she said. The American policy against providing assistance to, or indeed having any contact with, Hamas, was reiterated in US statements.
The co-operative, if tentative, welcome from the international community is a burn for Israel. Predictably, its condemnation was absolute; with seemingly no room for negotiation or reconsideration, the talk from the Knesset had been of sanctions and boycott. “This Palestinian government is a government backed by Hamas, which is a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction,” the Times of Israel reported Israeli government officials as stating.
“All those who genuinely seek peace must reject President Abbas’s embrace of Hamas,” Netanyahu additionally stated. “Most especially, I think the United States must make it absolutely clear to the Palestinian president that his pact with Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s liquidation, is simply unacceptable.”
For Palestinian officials, however, that stance hardly seems relevant. Flying in the face of international acceptance, Israel's rejection looks more an encouraging sign of opinion shifting to Palestine's favour than a setback.
"Netanyahu employed the division to weaken the political stand of Palestine, and he used it to hide his negative attitudes toward the rights of the Palestinian people,” the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. "He went through the battle of international acknowledgement of the unity government and stood against reconciliation because it achieves unity of the occupied Palestinian lands since 1967."

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