Nabil Shaath
Nabil Shaath Israel news photo: Flash 90

Fatah official Nabil Shaath on Monday said the new the new interim Palestinian Authority government to be headed by Mahmoud Abbas "need not recognize Israel."

"It is the PLO, not the PA, that recognizes Israel," Shaath insisted in an interview with the Hamas-affiliated Arabic-language Al Quds. Shaath was attempting to justify forming a unity government with Hamas, which continues to call for Israel's destruction.

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, the PLO was allowed to establish the PA as the administrative organ for its enclaves in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza after Yasser Arafat and Yizchak Rabin exchanged "mutual letters of recognition."

Nonetheless, Shaath claimed the PA "is committed to agreements signed and the ongoing process between the parties," adding that the Quartet "must recognize Palestinians in Israel before the establishment of a Palestinian state."

However, in December 2011 senior PLO officials said they were seriously considering downgrading all agreements with Israel, including economic and security cooperation.

Shaath's statements also run counter to clear conditions set by the Quartet for Middle East Peace - the European Union, Russia, United Nations, and United States - for Hamas to be included in a PA government.

Quartet officials have said Hamas must recognize Israel's right to exist, formally abandon terrorism and violence, and uphold agreements signed by previous PA governments with Israel and any other entity.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, continues to call for Israel's destruction while pursuing terrorism as its principle means of "resistance" against the Jewish state.

In December 2011, Hamas' Gaza chief Ismail Haniyeh said, “The armed resistance and the armed struggle are the path and the strategic choice for liberating the Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and for the expulsion of the invaders and usurpers [Israel]... We won’t relinquish one inch of the land of Palestine!”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday responded to the news that Fatah and Hamas would form a unity government, "I say to Abu Mazen [Abbas]: You cannot hold the stick by both ends.  It is either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel; you cannot have it both ways."

However, many critics say the government's response to the winds blowing from Ramallah has been sluggish and that officials in Jerusalem have yet to absorb that the tentative "Peace Process" and Oslo Accords have become a diplomatic non-sequitur.

Fatah's decision to form a unity government with Hamas comes on the heel of its own decision in December 2011 to adopt "a strategy based on continuous efforts along with the international community to secure full recognition and full United Nations membership, pursuing internal reconciliation, and keeping up the popular resistance."

While "popular resistance" is ostensibly non-violent, it has historically been accompanied with violent riots and waves of terror, and resulted in two so-called Intifadas.

In 1993, Arafat wrote to Yitzchak Rabin "...the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid. 

"Consequently, the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant."

However, those changes were never forthcoming. Article 9 of the PLO charter continues to assert, "Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase.”

It also maintains “Palestine” is defined by the British Mandate and is “indivisible” – thus leaving little or no room for Israel to exist at all.