RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signalled yesterday that he remains committed to troubled US-backed peace talks, saying that any unity government agreed with the militant group Hamas would recognise Israel.
Abbas’s comments appeared aimed at soothing US concerns about the unity deal he reached on Wednesday with Hamas, an Islamist faction sworn to Israel’s destruction and designated by the West as a terrorist organisation.
Israel suspended peace negotiations with Abbas after the reconciliation pact, and the United States said it would reconsider annual aid to the Palestinians worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“The government would be under my command and my policy,” Abbas told senior leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) at his presidential headquarters in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
“Its purview will be what happens domestically. I recognise Israel and it would recognise Israel. I reject violence and terrorism,” he said.
The deal between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party envisions agreement on a government of independent technocrats within five weeks and elections at least six months later.
Hamas’s opposition to Israel does not necessarily contradict Abbas’s position, as both sides have agreed that the unity government will not include Hamas members but be comprised of technocrats.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out talks with such a government.
“That’s the oldest trick in the book. It’s called the front office-back office gambit,” he said, in which “shady organisations” put forward “smooth-talking frontmen – the men in suits,” Netanyahu said in an interview with MSNBC on Thursday,
“We will not sit and negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas in which Hamas has effective share of power,” Netanyahu said.