Israeli officials appear united in publicly condemning yesterday’s announced reconciliation deal among Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. Officials responded today with repeated warnings that they have ruled out any future peace talks.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken a line literally of asking Fatah to choose between the right-wing Israeli government and Hamas, saying they cannot have ties with both. Since the Netanyahu government broke off peace talks with Hamas in September, however, it appears the threat to not hold additional peace talks was not a major one for Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Indeed, Israeli officials have occasionally insisted that talks with Fatah were pointless precisely because Hamas was not involved, and they hold sway over a large chunk of the population. It seems either way, the largely illusory peace process would be “imperiled.”
Which has led Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to insist that Israel may begin withholding all taxes collected for the Palestinian Authority. Since Israel only occasionally pays this amount in full at any rate, and is constantly finding excuses to withhold it to punish officials, this too may be an empty threat.
But top US Congressmen are also threatening to withhold aid to the Palestinian Authority to punish them for “shunning peace talks” by accepting a peace deal with the rival Hamas faction. The two parties split in 2006 after Hamas won the parliamentary elections, enraging Fatah. The split ended with Hamas taking over the Gaza Strip and Fatah holding the West Bank.