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Monday, 2 June 2014

Israel opposes recognition of Hamas-backed government; appointments expected today

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged “responsible elements” of the international community “not to run to recognise the Palestinian government of which Hamas is a part”, in remarks to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday morning. Meanwhile, conflicting reports continue to emerge from Hamas and Fatah representatives about whether agreement on the makeup of the government has in fact been reached.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said over the weekend that he would swear in the new government on Monday, and invitations have reportedly been issued for a ceremony at 1pm. However, reports have continued over the last 24 hours in the Palestinian media that Hamas still objects to key appointments, including Riad al-Maliki as Foreign Minister, and a proposal to dissolve the Prisoners’ Affairs Ministry and move its function to the PLO.

Abbas is under international pressure for the new government to recognise Israel, renounce violence, and accept previous agreements. US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly spoke with President Abbas on Sunday and expressed his concerns at the establishment of a government which includes Hamas – a group designated as a terrorist organisation in both the US and the EU. Nevertheless, it appears that the US will not make an immediate decision on whether to recognise the government. However, a State Department spokesperson said on Friday, “we’ll not make decisions until we see the final formation of the interim government” and that the government would be judged on its “composition, policies, and actions.”

The Israeli Security Cabinet met last night to discuss its response to the expected swearing in of the new government. It is understood that Israel will not have contact with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, but it remains to be seen what sanctions Israel will take, including whether it will act on a threat to use tax revenues usually transferred to the PA to pay debts owed to Israeli utility companies.

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