Palestinian unity government to be sworn in Monday, Mahmoud Abbas says
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that a coalition government to be formed by his Fatah party and its rival, the militant group Hamas, will be sworn in Monday.
The new government will adopt his political program, Abbas said, which includes recognition of Israel and renunciation of terrorism. But he said that Israel has nonetheless informed him it will impose sanctions because of the inclusion of Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist group.
An Israeli official said Saturday that it was too early to say whether the government is going to impose punitive measures against the Palestinians.
But Abbas told pro-Palestinian French activists at his Ramallah office Saturday that the decision had already been made. “Israel has informed us that it is going to impose sanctions against us when the national conciliation government is declared on Monday,” he said.
“For every Israeli measure, there is going to be an appropriate Palestinian response,” he said, without disclosing his plans.
Israel has said that it would not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, which rules in the Gaza Strip.
“We have said publicly that we will not negotiate with a government backed by Hamas,” said the Israeli official, who requested anonymity. He described the Palestinian step as a “very negative move” and “a great leap backwards.”
Since Fatah and Hamas’ recent reconciliation agreement, Israel has suspended all high-level contacts with Palestinian officials, with the exception of security coordination.
Israel denied requests from three Gaza residents who were tapped for the unity government and sought permission to travel to Ramallah for the swearing-in ceremony, Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories, said, according to Israeli news media.
“Israel wants to punish us because we reached an agreement with Hamas to achieve reconciliation, which we have always sought, and to form a reconciliation government that will include independent technocrats who have nothing to do with any faction, whether that was Fatah or Hamas or anyone else,” Abbas said.
He said that he is nevertheless ready to resume peace negotiations with Israel if it agrees on a prisoner release, discusses border issues and stops allowing settlement activities on Palestinian land.
Special correspondents Abukhater reported from Ramallah and Sobelman from Jerusalem.
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