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Published: Saturday, 5/31/2014

Palestinian unity government to be sworn in

LOS ANGELES TIMES

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A Palestinian unity government between his Fatah party and its rival, the militant group Hamas, will be formed and sworn in Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said today.

The new government, Abbas said, will adopt his political program, which includes recognition of Israel and renouncing terrorism. But he said that Israel has nonetheless informed him it will impose sanctions because of the inclusion of Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist group.

An Israeli official said today it was too early to say if the government is going to impose punitive measures against the Palestinians. But Abbas told pro-Palestinian French activists at his Ramallah office today that the decision had already been made.

“Israel has informed us that it is going to impose sanctions against us when the national conciliation government is declared on Monday,” he said.

“For every Israeli measure, there is going to be an appropriate Palestinian response,” he added, without disclosing his plans.

Israel has said in the past that it will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, which rules in the Gaza Strip.

“We have said publicly that we will not negotiate with a government backed by Hamas,” the Israeli official who requested anonymity said, describing the Palestinian step as a “very negative move” and “a great leap backwards.”

Since Fatah and Hamas’ recent reconciliation agreement, Israel has suspended all high-level contacts between Israeli officials and their Palestinian counterparts with the exception of security coordination.

The Israeli government denied three Palestinians from Gaza tapped for the unity government their requests to travel to the West Bank for the swearing-in ceremony in Ramallah, Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories, said, according to Israeli news media.

“Israel wants to punish us, because we reached an agreement with Hamas to achieve reconciliation, which we have always sought, and to form a reconciliation government that will include independent technocrats who have nothing to do with any faction, whether that was Fatah or Hamas or anyone else,” Abbas said.

Abbas said that he is nevertheless ready to resume peace negotiations with Israel if it agrees on a prisoner release, discusses border issues and stops allowing settlement activities on Palestinian land.



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