Israel Refuses to Negotiate with Palestinian Government ‘Dependent on Hamas’

Tel-Aviv – Following long discussions and sharp disputes over the stance towards the Palestinian reconciliation agreement, the Israeli cabinet announced on Tuesday its rejection to negotiate with a Palestinian government “dependent on Hamas”, which Israel describes as “a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction” of the country.
The statement followed comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he said that his government would neither try to prevent the implementation of the Palestinian agreement, nor would it cut relations with the Authority.
The Israeli government stressed that Hamas should recognize Israel and renounce terrorism in accordance with the Quartet’s conditions. It also demanded the disarming of Hamas, the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in the recent war, and the release of two citizens held by the movement in the Gaza Strip.
The government added to these conditions, which Netanyahu had put forward following the signing of the reconciliation agreement last week, the necessity that the Palestinian Authority extend its full security control over the Gaza Strip, including the crossings, and prevent arms smuggling there.
It also called for thwarting the Hamas-terrorist network in the West Bank and cutting relations between the movement and Iran.
Israel’s security cabinet, which convened on Monday evening, conducted lengthy research on the reconciliation agreement, after which Netanyahu declared that Israel would neither recognize nor accept the agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas.
However, he said that he would “not try to prevent its implementation on the ground, and will not cut relations with the Authority.”
Netanyahu told his ministers that should the reconciliation agreement be implemented and PA officials return to the civil administration offices in Gaza and control the border crossings, “we must work with them, because this serves the Israeli interests in preventing a humanitarian crisis and improving the living conditions of the residents of the Gaza Strip.”

US, Egypt Urge Israel against ‘Sabotaging’ Palestinian Reconciliation


Tel Aviv, Washington – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received firm messages from the United States and Egypt leaderships, demanding him against “sabotaging” the Palestinian reconciliation deal, political sources in Tel Aviv revealed.

Chances should be given to allow the deal to be a success, they said.

They noted that at first glance, it appears that the PM’s reaction to the reconciliation is negative because he has been demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

He has also been demanding that Hamas be stripped of its weapons and sever ties with Iran.

The sources said that this response is in fact a “moderate” one.

In his first reaction, Netanyahu had said that “we will not accept a fake reconciliation where Palestinians will reach an agreement at the expense of our existence.”

He later added however: “Israel will study the developments on the ground and work accordingly.”

An official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry underlined the premier’s “remarkable” diplomatic rhetoric, while the political sources attributed his position to his desire against harming ties with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

He is also aware that the US administration of President Donald Trump welcomed Cairo’s sponsoring of the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

Furthermore, Netanyahu realizes that the Palestinian Authority’s return to Gaza, even partially, will serve Israel’s security interest.

Observers believe that Netanyahu was forced to take a more lenient stand, but he is still “unconvinced” of the inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

The premier and other officials in his government are concerned with the reconciliation possible longevity because the Palestinian division had greatly benefited Israel.

Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett went so far as to describe the government that will be established through the agreement as a “terrorism unity cabinet.”

Other observers said that the reconciliation will be short-lived due to ongoing Palestinian and Arab differences.

Alex Fishman of Yedioth Ahronoth said: “The Cairo talks left Hamas with its tunnels, labs, weapons factories, drones and with the Ezzeddine al-Qassam Brigades and their naval commandos. In fact, Hamas’s military wing remains as it were—under the direct and exclusive command of Hamas.

“This is why Israel views the agreement signed on Thursday as one that has no chance of being realized, so there’s no reason to even waste energy on trying to sabotage it. Especially as both the American administration and the Egyptians have asked Israel not to interfere,” he noted in an oped on Friday.

Israel Welcomes Trump’s ‘Courageous’ Stance on Iran Nuclear Deal


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised on Friday US President Donald Trump’s decision not to re-certify to Congress the Iran nuclear deal.

He welcomed the “courageous decision,” saying Trump has created an opportunity to “fix this bad deal” and to roll back Iran’s aggression.

He encouraged all other relevant nations to do the same.

Israeli Minister Tzachi Hanegbi also praised Trump’s stand, noting however that there appear to be deep partisan divisions surrounding the US administration.

He added: “The result that may happen and which is the only positive thing we can see at this stage is for Congress to agree on new significant sanctions.”

These sanctions would compel large international companies to choose between doing business with the Iranians or the Americans.

Fatah Commits to Resistance Arms, Says Use Exclusive to National Decision

People gather as the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives to take control of Gaza from the Islamist Hamas group, in the northern Gaza Strip

Cairo– The round of negotiations complementing the Palestinian reconciliation continued for the second day in a row in Cairo, witnessing a preliminary agreement over Hamas’ weapons.

Fatah Member Abbas Zaki said that disarming Hamas or any other faction was out of the question for the Palestinian Authority.

He told Asharq al-Awsat: “We believe that the weapons are needed and the resistance is a duty, but we are seeking an agreement over the need for a collective national decision as the basis for the use of those weapons.”

Zaki stressed that in the face of “an Israeli enemy arming the settlers, we do not ask Hamas or the Jihad or other factions to disarm. Everyone must know that we have not dropped the decision of the armed struggle, but it should be based on national consensus.”

Former Fatah chief in Cairo, Barakat Al-Farra, expressed the same stance.

In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat, Farra said that the Palestinian reconciliation was not aimed at disarming Hamas, but “the decision of the resistance should go back to the Palestinian Authority, based on a collective agreement.”

Sources in Fatah said that the movement had agreed to exempt Hamas from recognizing Israel.

“We do not work with Israel; its government and its majority party must recognize Palestine first. Hamas and others are not required to take the step of recognizing the occupier. We must demand that the world withdraw its recognition of Israel, based on UN Resolution 181 pertaining to the partition of Palestine,” Zaki said.

Speaking on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set three conditions for dealing with the new Palestinian government that would be formed following the Cairo negotiations.

Those include, according to Netanyahu, recognizing Israel as a Jewish State, dismantling Hamas’ military apparatus and cutting ties with Iran.

According to Samir Ghattas, an expert in Palestinian affairs and member of the Egyptian parliament, the Israeli condition to recognize Israel as a Jewish state lacks sound grounds, especially since “no country in the world recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and that neither the Palestinian Authority nor Fatah or Hamas is required to pay attention to such calls”.

Palestinian Gunman Kills Three Israeli Soldiers near Jerusalem


Tel Aviv- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened, at the beginning of the weekly ministerial meeting, to demolish the house of the Palestinian Nimer Mahmoud Ahmad Jamal, 37, who killed three soldiers from the Israeli Border Police.

Netanyahu also announced sanctions against his family and village, accusing the Palestinian authority of standing behind the operation due to the “systematized incitement.” He demanded a clear condemnation of the attack from Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Fatah media official Munir Jaghob said that Israel bears all responsibility for the Palestinian reactions on the occupation crimes, and if the occupation continues its aggression on the Palestinian people then it should expect more violence.

Nimer Mahmoud Ahmad Jamal, the 37-year-old Palestinian who shot to death three Israelis and injured another at the entrance to the settlement of Har Adar, was recently left by his wife, likely due to domestic violence, and left her a final message before carrying out the attack.

“When you wake up in the morning, share this message on my page. Let your conscience rest. You were a good wife, Umm Baha [mother of Baha], and a compassionate mother and I was the one who behaved badly. I say this in full awareness: my wife had nothing to do with what will happen tomorrow,” he wrote.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan stated that the policy of providing Palestinians with permits should be examined because it is impossible to know where the next operation will be at a time when there are ideological terrorism and incitement via social networks.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said that the Palestinian people choice of resistance is the right response on supporters of surrendering and submission. It considered the operation to fall under resistant work against settlers.

Hamas spokesman Husam Badran praised the operation, which he considers it to be a response to the occupation crimes and continuous violations in Al-Aqsa Mosque. He also affirmed that the heroic operation next to occupied Jerusalem signifies that the revolution of Jerusalem persists even if it calms from time to time.

Sisi, Netanyahu Discuss Security Guarantees in Gaza, Revival of Peace Talks

Cairo, New York, Tel Aviv – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the means to revive peace talks in the Middle East, during a bilateral meeting in New York on Tuesday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Egyptian political and parliamentary sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Egyptian security guarantees on the Gaza Strip were a major focus of the rare meeting between the two sides, in light of the recent understandings between Cairo and the Palestinian Hamas movement.

Tuesday’s encounter was the first “publicized” meeting between the two leaders since Sisi took office in 2014.

A statement issued by the Egyptian presidency said that Sisi met with the Israeli prime minister in the presence of Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, General Intelligence Chief Khaled Fawzi and General Abbas Kamel, Director of the Office of the President.

Official presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said that the two officials discussed ways to revive the peace process, with Sisi underlining the role Egypt is playing in resuming negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis in order to reach a fair and comprehensive settlement to their conflict.

The settlement will be based on the two-state solution and international resolutions on the dispute, he added.

The Egyptian president hailed efforts deployed by the US administration to that end, saying that a fair settlement will lead to a new reality in the Middle East where all peoples can live in stability and security and enjoy development.

For his part, Netanyahu expressed his appreciation of Egypt’s important role in the region and its efforts in combating terrorism, Youssef said.

Egypt and Israel maintain security coordination because of the massive deployment of armed groups in Egypt’s northern Sinai governorate along the borders with Israel and the Gaza Strip.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ambassador Naji al-Ghatrifi, the former Egyptian deputy foreign minister, said: “Chances of a breakthrough in reviving the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis are still limited and are mainly linked to ending the internal Palestinian division.”

“The other qualitative development is that Hamas is committed to its separation from other extremist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood,” he continued.

On Sunday, Hamas announced its decision to dissolve the administrative committee in Gaza, in response to a request from the Palestinian Authority. It also agreed to hold general elections to end a long-running dispute with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement.

Egyptian MP Samir Ghattas said, for his part, that the meeting between Sisi and Netanyahu revolved around Israel’s efforts to obtain Egyptian security guarantees on the Gaza Strip, after the recent agreement with Hamas.

“From the Israeli point of view, Hamas is still a terrorist movement; that’s why Israel wants to hold Egypt responsible for ensuring security in the Gaza Strip,” he noted, ruling out any significant progress in reviving Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at the present moment.

Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister announced on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump had “a very strong desire” to advance the process of general reconciliation with the Arab world.

Netanyahu made the remarks in an interview with Israeli journalists after his meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

He noted that Trump’s advisors were trying to achieve progress on the resumption of peace talks, but so far no advancement has been made.

“The president did not go into details,” Netanyahu said. “He is hoping for progress with the Palestinians, and he is assigning this task to his team.”

Netanyahu said he was keen on achieving peace with the Palestinians, “and I hold on to vital interests, especially security.”

On Iran, the Israeli prime minister said that he sensed a change in the American system regarding Iran, and that this was also influencing the international community.

“The Americans have a desire to fix the agreement (nuclear deal), and I offered a plan on how to do it,” he added, without going into detail.

Egypt’s Sisi Meets Netanyahu in New York


Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi held talks on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Official presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said that the two officials discussed ways to revive the peace process, with Sisi underlining the role Egypt is playing in resuming negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis in order to reach a fair and comprehensive settlement to their conflict.

The settlement will be based on the two-state solution and international resolutions on the dispute, he continued.

Sisi hailed the efforts of the US administration to that end, saying that a fair settlement will lead to a new reality in the Middle East where all peoples can live in stability and security and enjoy development.

For his part, Netanyahu expressed his appreciation of Egypt’s important role in the Middle East and its efforts in combating terrorism, said Youssef.

The meeting was attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri and general intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Fate of Iran Nuclear Agreement Dominates New York UN Meetings


New York – The fate of the nuclear agreement with Iran is dominating this week’s United Nations General Assembly as European officials will attempt to persuade US President Donald Trump to maintain the agreement.

Trump is to meet a number of leaders who have opposing stances on the deal, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who backs annulling it, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who backs keeps it.

The US president pledged during his electoral campaign to abolish the Vienna agreement signed on July 14, 2015 between Tehran and six world powers (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany).

During Monday’s meeting between Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the former highlighted the importance of fully implementing the agreement by all participants.

Washington and Tehran are exchanging accusations of violating the agreement, which was negotiated for ten years and came to effect in January 2016 to ensure the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program in return for the gradual lift of international sanctions on Iran.

Talks at the UN General Assembly coincide with Trump’s speech before US Congress in mid-October to affirm whether Tehran is abiding by its commitments. Should he say that it was violating its pledges, then sanctions would be in order.

“It’s essential to maintain the agreement,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in New York, adding that France will try to persuade Trump that this is the right option.

Washington accuses Iran of breaking the spirit of the agreement and reinforcing its leverage that does not serve the region’s stability, especially in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

In this context, Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, said in early September that Iran was using the deal to “hold the world hostage.”

Netanyahu at Odds with Israeli Military on Iran Nuclear Deal


Tel Aviv- On the eve of a planned visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US, sources revealed that the Israeli military and intelligence brass are odds with him over the nuclear deal with Iran.

The sources said that mainly the premier and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have differences over whether to urge Washington to scrap the nuclear deal.

Netanyahu wants the deal between world powers and Iran to be amended or canceled.

Israeli officials said Netanyahu and Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer are encouraging Trump and his close aids not to re-certify the agreement and announce that Iran is breaching it.

Trump will meet with Netanyahu on Monday for talks focused on Iran on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“Netanyahu and Dermer are pushing the White House to decertify the nuclear agreement,” an Israeli official said. “As far as Netanyahu is concerned, it’s the most important thing Trump can do, and he hopes that as a result Congress will resume the sanctions against Iran.”

After Reuters news agency cited senior US officials as saying this week that Israel wasn’t interested in the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and objected to revoking it, Netanyahu was quick to deny it. The premier said Israel has an interest in seeing the Trump administration “fix the agreement or revoke it.”

A day later, Lieberman said he supported Netanyahu’s position. “The agreement isn’t delaying Iran’s nuclear program even by one day, they are clever enough not to break it off.”

“The agreement isn’t holding them back or preventing them from continuing to research and develop centrifuges. It isn’t preventing them from continuing with missiles and warheads and checking accuracy and distances. The Iranians have refused to let anyone check the military program sites,” he said.

While the Israeli PM and defense minister are aspiring to see Trump take action that would lead to Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement, the senior ranks of the Israeli security establishment and intelligence community believe that even though the agreement is bad for Israel, an American pullout would be even worse.

They also think that if the US withdraws from the deal, other world powers will not follow through, and thus Iran will not become isolated nor face new international sanctions.

Netanyahu to Ask Trump to Fight Iran’s Presence in Syria, Iraq


Tel Aviv – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged on Tuesday the world to fight terrorism, accusing Iran of being the root of all terror in the world.

He is expected to address this issue with US President Donald Trump when they meet later this month in New York, said Israeli sources.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Beunos Aires alongside Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Netanyahu said there was no doubt that Iran was behind the two major terror attacks that struck Jewish and Israeli sites in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s.

Netanyahu also condemned Iran’s involvement in global terrorism, saying the regime and its proxies continue to operate even in Latin America.

“Iran’s terror has not stopped since then. They have a terror machine that encompasses the entire world, operating terror cells in many continents, including Latin America,” he said.

He added that all modern states must fight terrorism, especially Iran’s terrorist regime, reiterating that Israel will continue to stand in face of Iran’s terror along with its partners in Latin and North America.

“In the case of Iran, there have been some news stories about Israel’s purported position on the nuclear deal with Iran. So let me take this opportunity and clarify: Our position is straightforward. This is a bad deal. Either fix it, or cancel it. This is Israel’s position,” added the PM.

Netanyahu said that Israel is also concerned about Iran’s nuclear weapons, adding that it should concern the entire international community.

“We understand the danger of a rogue nation having atomic bombs,” he stressed.

The Israeli sources mentioned that the Israeli PM will ask Trump, during their expected meeting, to change his policy towards Iran, Syria and Iraq. He also wants Washington to amend the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with Iran or cancel it altogether.

The meeting will be held amid reports that Trump will declare Iran as non-compliant with the 2015 nuclear deal.

In related news, Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz urged Netanyahu on Monday to lobby Trump to change or cancel the Iran nuclear deal.

Katz described the deal as Iran’s protection to get nuclear capabilities in the future.

Sources revealed that the White House plans to declare Iran non-compliant, but without dismantling the deal.

A Tel Aviv official stated that a new US strategy is being drafted which could lead to stricter responses against Iranian military troops in Iraq and Syria.

During a speech at a counter-terrorism conference, Katz also said Tehran is establishing itself in Syria with bases and airports that threaten Israel.

He warned: “Iran is the new North Korea. We need to work against it today so that we don’t regret tomorrow what we should have done yesterday.”

He said Trump needs to adhere to the assurances he made regarding Iran and the JCPOA.

“Iran needs to be forced to sign a new agreement, one that will never let it advance to nuclear weapons, as President Trump promised, and which will also include the issues of missiles and Iran’s support of terror,” he concluded.

Katz said Iran is in the process of signing an agreement with Syrian leader Bashar Assad that would allow it to maintain military infrastructure in the country for the long term.

The minister stressed that even though Iran’s nuclear weapons development program is on hold, the country is still actively working to improve its ballistic missile and rocket technology to make them more precise.

He said Israel has to uphold its “red lines” regarding Syria and prevent advanced weapons from reaching Lebanon’s “Hezbollah”.