The Israeli ministerial cabinet held an extended session in response to the Palestinian reconciliation and unity agreement, and decided to halt peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, and to conduct various measures meant to punish it and pressure it into voiding the deal.Israeli Ynet News said that right wing ministers of the Israeli government demanded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end political talks with the Palestinians.
Israeli media sources said that the Israeli Cabinet decided to “obstruct talks”, and not to end them, as part of measures meant to pressure Abbas. Direct talks, mediated by the United States, effectively end on April 29.
Finance Minister, head of the Yesh Atid Party (There Is Future) Yair Lapid, and Chief Negotiator, Justice Minister and the head of the Hatenua Party, Tzipi Livni, said they believe there is still a chance for negotiations, and that Israel “should not close the door, but instead freeze talks”.
The Ynet said the Ministerial Cabinet unanimously decided to freeze talks with the Palestinians, and to impose economic sanctions.
The paper also said that Livni and Lapid believe that the door to talks should remain open “despite the fact that the reconciliation deal with Hamas is a worrisome development”.
They said that this deal could also be used as an opportunity to force Hamas to accept the conditions of the Quartet Committee. [Recognize Israel, renounce violence, and recognize previously signed peace agreements.]
Livni said that Israel cannot hold peace talks “with an organization that carries out terrorist attacks against the Israelis”, and that “peace talks can only be resumed when the Palestinians come back to their senses.”
The Israeli Cabinet decided that Tel Aviv would not negotiate with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas, under the pretext that “Hamas is a terrorist group that calls for the destruction of Israel”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that President Mahmoud Abbas violated standing agreements when he decided to join United Nations institutions and international treaties, and when he held a coalition with the Hamas movement.
He alleged that the reconciliation deal was signed between Fateh and Hamas “while Tel Aviv was making efforts to ensure direct peace talks advance”, adding that the Palestinian are not interested in advancing direct talks.
Israel is already enforcing sanctions on the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, especially when they headed to the United Nations, and recently filed applications to join 15 international treaties.
As in the case before, the sanctions include freezing the transfer of all tax and customs money it collects on border terminals in the occupied West Bank, stopping all economic projects that could help boost the Palestinian economy, and various other measures, including boosting its illegitimate settlement construction and expansion activities.
The Ynet said Israel decided to shut the door, and placed a red line against any talks with the Palestinians should a unity government be formed. It also said Israel is worried about the stance of the United States regarding this agreement, and considered it too lenient.
Senior Palestinian official, Dr. Saeb Erekat, stated Israel is responsible for the collapse of peace talks because it chose to build and expand illegitimate settlements, and continued its violations instead of choosing peace.
He also denounced Israel’s decision to cancel the release veteran detainees.
On his part, Arab League secretary-general Nabil al-Arabi stated that Arab countries support president Abbas, and will help him counter pressures from Netanyahu.
It is worth mentioning that Netanyahu’s office issued a short video with the picture of Mahmoud Abbas, accusing the Palestinian leader of “repeatedly saying No to peace”.
The video is part of the media campaign Israel decided to launch against the Palestinian leadership, and president Abbas, allegedly for “refusing to resume direct talks with Tel Aviv”.
Tel Aviv is trying to isolate Abbas in an attempt to oblige him to resume talks without demanding Israel to stop all its violations, invasions, assassination, and settlement activities.
Talking to American media and TV’s, Netanyahu claimed Abbas is “reaching out to Bin Laden and al-Qaeda”, instead of seeking peace with Tel Aviv, the Ma’an News Agency said.
Israel was supposed to implement the fourth and final stage of releasing veteran detainees on March 28 as part of an American mediation that helped start direct talks nine months ago.
On Tuesday, at dawn, [December 31, 2013] Israel released 26 veteran Palestinian detainees, as part of the third phase of releasing all detained Palestinians held since before the first Oslo peace agreement in 1993.
During the first and second phases, Israel released, back in mid-August 26 veteran detainees (14 from Gaza and 12 from the West bank) and, in late October, it released 26 veteran detainees (21 from Gaza and 5 from the West Bank).
104 veteran detainees were supposed to be freed by March 28.
Israel holds more than 5,000 Palestinians in its prisons, most of them on security grounds. Around 150 of these are held under administrative detention, without charge or trial, and another 150 are minors.
Tel Aviv refuses to recognize the legitimate Palestinians rights to establish a state in all of the territories illegally captured by Israel in 1967, including occupied East Jerusalem, refuses to hold talks on borders, natural resources, and refuses any withdrawal from the Jordan valley.
Israel grants itself “the right” to build and expand Jewish settlements in direct violation of International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
It also refuses to recognize all international resolutions regarding the occupied territories, including rejecting the internationally guaranteed Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees.
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