New PA Government Will Not Recognize Israel

The new Palestinian Authority government to be formed by Hamas and Fatah will not recognize Israel's right to exist. Nor is it clear that it will abide by agreements signed by the PLO.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz and Hillel Fendel , | updated: 9:44 PM

The warring Hamas and Fatah terrorist groups in control of the PA, led by Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Abbas, respectively, reached an agreement on Thursday night in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The talks were aimed at ending weeks of bloodshed between the two organizations.

The new agreement includes power-sharing arrangements in a new PA government - but Hamas spokesmen made it clear that the new understandings implied no recognition of the State of Israel whatsoever.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert chose not to respond to the agreement as yet, saying, "We do not reject it or accept it... Like the other nations, we will study it."

Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, said the agreement is clearly bad. "Israel must apply pressure around the world so that this new government is not recognized," he said. Netanyahu also called upon Olmert to call off his planned meeting with PA head Abu Mazen of Fatah and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, also of the Likud, lambasted Olmert's "lack of leadership" by not rejecting the Hamas-Fatah government outright.

Khaled Mashaal, the Damascus-based leader of the Hamas organization, told the Al-Hayat newspaper on Saturday that the agreement with Fatah includes no mention of the recognition of Israel's national legitimacy. "We were not asked to do so," he said. "We agreed to the political platform of the government and we are a part of it, like the other factions. And we are committed to what was agreed upon in the document of national agreement [the Prisoners' Document, drafted by imprisoned terror group leaders -ed.] and the letter of appointment of the [current] government... However, each organization will hold its own political positions."

On Friday, however, Meshaal called the Mecca agreement "a new political language for Hamas."

Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, was more forthright. On Friday, he declared: "The positions of Hamas are known and unchanging, and at their base is the non-recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity. The Hamas movement is one matter and the unity government is another. The national unity government is based on the document of national agreement, which does not recognize the Israeli entity."

Despite the celebrations in Gaza over the new government, it appears that many of the disputed issues remain unresolved. Arutz-7's Haggai Huberman reports that instead, committees were formed to deal with them.

Among the matters still in doubt are: the precise attitude towards the State of Israel; reforms in the PLO organs, the inclusion of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and others in the PLO, and the identity of the all-important Interior Minister. Most critical is the future of the private Hamas army, which is subservient to the Interior Ministry and which has been the focus of much of the recent bloodshed.

The PA leadership is hoping that the very fact of the Fatah-Hamas national unity agreement reached in Mecca will end a Western embargo against the Hamas-led PA. The Western nations stopped aid to the PA after the Islamist Hamas terror organization swept into power in Authority-wide elections in January 2006.

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamed told Reuters, "We have agreed with the Saudis to market this agreement internationally. Our [Saudi] brothers are in constant contact with the Americans and Europeans. They [the West] cannot ignore this agreement and impose their own conditions."

Ahmed Yousef, an advisor to the PA's Hamas prime minister, warned the European Union, "I count on the Europeans to change their policies, and to say that what happened in Mecca shows ideological flexibility. The Europeans have their own interest, and they should care about the image and perception. They don't want their image in the region to be like the US."

As for the US, and its partners in the Quartet, the reaction has been noncommittal. In a joint statement released Friday, the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations stated, "While awaiting formation of the new Palestinian government, [we reaffirm our] support for a Palestinian government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap."

PLO negotiators met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday, in the wake of the Mecca agreement. Yasser Abd Rabo called his talks with Ban Ki-Moon "fruitful."