In a blow to Israel, British Foreign Secretary William Hague was the first EU foreign minister to welcome the unity government agreement signed on Monday between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. In a statement issued on Tuesday, Hague said reuniting the Gaza Strip and the West Bank was “a necessary condition for resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” reports The Jerusalem Post.
That view, which echoed the reaction from the US State Department, was clearly not shared by the Israeli government which strongly condemned the formation of the Hamas-supported government and said that it would “not negotiate with a Palestinian government with backing from Hamas – a terrorist organization – which calls for the destruction of Israel.”
The EU, like the US and Israel, officially considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization. But both the US and EU are seeking to finesse the terrorism issue by focusing on the technocratic makeup of the new PA government and ignoring Hamas’s support and role in its creation, very much against the wishes of Israel.
Hague said that the British government has made clear that its continued support for the “new interim technocratic government for the occupied Palestinian territories” rested on the latter’s commitment to the “principle of nonviolence and acceptance of all previous agreements and obligations including Israel’s legitimate right to exist.”
Hamas, however, continues to insist that it will not recognize Israel’s right to exist, that it is committed to Israel’s destruction through jihad, and that it will not disarm its military wing under the new government.
Hague’s comments were in contrast to those of his Minister of State Hugh Robertson, who in a recent interview with London’s Jewish News said that the reconciliation between the PA and Hamas had been “unhelpful.”
Robertson expressed his “enormous sympathy” with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s position on negotiating with Hamas.
“If Hamas was part of a future government and it remains a supporter of terrorism, that would make it impossible for this country [Britain] – as things stand – to support that government,” Robertson said during the interview.
Meanwhile in Brussels, a spokesman said that the EU took note of the establishment of “a Palestinian national consensus government” headed by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, describing it as “an important step in the process of Palestinian reconciliation.”
The spokesman added that the EU welcomed the appointment of a government of “independent personalities” and the declaration by PA President Mahmoud Abbas that the new government was committed to the principles of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, the recognition of Israel’s legitimate right to exist, nonviolence and respect of previous agreements.
The spokesman did not elaborate on the type and level of engagement nor on who would assess the Palestinian government’s compliance with the four principles.