European Union (EU) foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton yesterday expressed support for a new Palestinian unity government which adheres to Quartet requirements, fuelling Israeli concerns over ‘back door’ international recognition of Hamas.

It was announced last week that the Fatah faction led by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas will form a unity government, prompting Israel to suspend peace talks with the PA. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since then made it clear that there will be no negotiations with a government backed by Hamas, unless it repudiates violence and embraces peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and is classified as a terror organisation by the United States and EU.

However, Israeli leaders are reportedly concerned that the international community may demand recognition of Israel from the new Palestinian government but not Hamas itself, constituting ‘back door’ recognition of Hamas. PA President Abbas has indicated that he will form a government of non-political technocrats which recognises Israel. In a statement yesterday, Ashton said that she “consistently supported intra-Palestinian reconciliation, but on clear and certain terms,” similar to Quartet requirements whereby, “The EU expects any new government to uphold the principle of nonviolence, to remain committed to achieving a two-state solution and to a negotiated peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, accepting previous agreements and obligations, including Israel’s legitimate right to exist.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times quotes an Israeli official who said Israel has a “specific commitment from the American administration” backing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s refusal to talk to a Hamas-backed government. Although US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki last week said, “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.” However, previous Fatah-Hamas unity agreements have in the end not been implemented and it remains unclear who exactly would sit in such a government.