TEL AVIV – Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh will not be given immunity from Israeli assassination in exchange for restoring diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey, the Prime Minister’s Office said Saturday.
The statement comes after David Bitan, a Member of Knesset from the Likud party, made remarks to that effect at a cultural event the same day.
“What’s certain is that we can’t do anything to [Haniyeh] anymore, he is secured. Not even the prime minister can give the order anymore,” Bitan said.
Bitan was discussing the upcoming rapprochement deal with Israel’s erstwhile ally Turkey. The two sides are set to meet in Rome on Sunday to ink the reconciliation deal.
The PMO released an angry response denying Bitan’s claim:
“MK David Bitan is not privy to the details of the agreement with Turkey. His comments are incorrect and detached from reality. The issue [of Haniyeh] was not discussed during the talks.”
The statement added that “Israel reserves the right to ensure its security in accordance with the circumstances.”
Bitan consequently released a statement of his own, retracting his remarks.
“My comments were misunderstood. First of all, I didn’t say that any promises were made regarding Haniyeh. Israel always reserves its right to take any necessary measures at its disposal, and I meant nothing to the contrary.”
Bitan, who also serves as the coalition chairman, added that “it was made clear to me unequivocally that such a thing was not at all included in the agreement.”
The reconciliation announcement expected Sunday comes after negotiations regarding Turkey’s relationship with Hamas. According to Haaretz, the two sides have reached an understanding that Hamas will be allowed to continue its diplomatic operations in Turkey but will be barred from planning military action.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the families of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, two IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 war with Hamas, set up a protest tent in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, demanding that the bodies be returned to Israel as part of the agreement with Turkey.