Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel won’t negotiate with a Palestinian unity government unless Hamas declares it recognises Israel.
Netanyahu said on Sunday the preferable course to get peace negotiations back on track would be for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to renounce Hamas, the Islamist movement whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel.
“Either Hamas disavows the destruction of Israel and embraces peace and denounces terror or president Abbas renounces Hamas,” Netanyahu said, speaking on CNN’s State of the Union.
“If one of those things happened, we could get back to the peace negotiations. I hope he renounces Hamas and gets back to the peace table, as I’ve just said. The ball is in his court,” he said.
Netanyahu suspended faltering peace talks with the Palestinians last week after Abbas and Hamas agreed to form a unity government.
Netanyahu’s comments came after Abbas, in a speech on Saturday to PLO leaders, said his unity government with Hamas would reject violence and abide by existing agreements.
Abbas also on Sunday declared the Holocaust was “the most heinous crime” against humanity in the modern era, his strongest remarks yet on the Nazi genocide.
In a separate interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Netanyahu said he was “shocked” when Abbas announced the pact with Hamas, and dismissed his comments on the Holocaust.
“I think it’s an overture to American public opinion, to world put opinion to try to placate and somehow smooth over the fact that he made a terrible step away from peace,” he said.
“He made a giant leap backwards, away from pace, because he embraced Hamas that calls for the extermination of Jews worldwide,” he said.
“So, you know, you can say nice things or even significant things about the Holocaust, but you can’t embrace those who deny the Holocaust and are asking to commit another Holocaust,” he added.
Despite the Israeli prime minister’s stance, his cabinet appeared divided over how to respond to the new development.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, said it was crucial to wait in see what sort of Palestinian government emerges.