The unification of former Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas has left Israel very uneasy.
Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has criticized the reconciliation deal and asserted that Israel will neither recognize nor negotiate with the new unity Palestinian government since it now includes Hamas.
Israel has had a working relationship with Fatah, which is moderate and controls the West Bank. However, the stridently Islamist Hamas, which rules Gaza, is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and periodically exchanges missile and rocket launches with the Jewish state.
It needs to be clear that such an agreement crosses a red line, Lieberman told Israeli military radio.
The significance of the agreement is that... hundreds of terrorists will flood the West Bank and therefore we need to prepare for a different situation.”
Liebermann added he may impose restrictions on the freedom movement of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority and head of Fatah; and of the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Israel defense minister Ehud Barak also expressed his intransigent opposition to Hamas, saying that there is no chance that we will talk with this government, if they try to create it.
Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization that fires rockets on citizens and recently fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus of students, Barak said.
This is an organization with whom there is nothing to discuss, and therefore we will have no discourse with them.
Barak also urged Israel's allies to refrain from cooperating with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless the group undergoes a deep and fundamental change.
Among such changes would be to give up on terror, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and show a willingness to negotiate.
Only with these conditions is there a basis for discussion with Hamas [but] I don't see this yet happening, Barak said.
Incidentally, I don't yet know if the agreement will indeed be signed. It’s a little early to predict, but we must be prepared for every possibility.
Complicating matters further is that violence between Israel and Hamas has escalated in recent months.
Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday: There cannot be peace with both [Israel and Hamas] because Hamas wants to destroy Israel and says so openly. It shoots missiles at our cities, it fires anti-tank missiles at our children. I think that the idea of reconciliation shows the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and raises the question whether Hamas will take over Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] as it has taken over the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s biggest ally, the United States, is also less than enthusiastic about the new alliance between Fatah and Hamas, only saying that the new government must renounce violence and recognize Israel.
US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said: The United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace. Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians. To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must... renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.
It was Egypt who brokered the peace deal between the Palestinian rivals after four tears of estrangement. Fatah and Hamas plan to forma n interim government and fixed a date for elections.
From the Palestinian point of view, independent statehood would have been impossible without unity by Fatah and Hamas.
A report in BBC cautioned that “there are many difficult issues to resolve - such as how the two factions will share security, how Gaza and the West Bank, separated by Israeli territory, will be governed, and whether the international donors will be willing to recognize Hamas.”