Israel rejected the newly anointed Palestinian unity government Sunday after the Palestinian prime minister said the deal didn't rule out "popular resistance against occupation."
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Cabinet that the Palestinian government's platform "includes problematic elements that cannot be acceptable to Israel and the international community, like the right to resist, the use of terror and the non-recognition of Israel."
The Cabinet voted 19-2 to back Olmert's boycott, dashing hopes that the Palestinians and Israelis will sit down for the peace talks that the formation of a unity government was supposed to help facilitate.
Other aims of uniting the Hamas and Fatah factions are quelling a bloody feud between the two groups and ending a Western boycott of the Palestinian territories that has crippled the Hamas-led government since it toppled the moderate Fatah party in January 2005.
The United States and Israel consider Hamas a terror organization.
But while Israel was quick to denounce the new Palestinian government, the U.S. responded more cautiously, saying the deal was still under review. Meanwhile, the European Union and Norway welcomed the coalition, and Norway said it was willing to lift sanctions on the government.
Israel rejected the deal before it was even forged because of remarks by Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, a Hamas hardliner who said before signing the deal that the Palestinian government would emphasize "resistance with all of its means, including the popular resistance against occupation."
Resistance, said Haniya, "is a legitimate right for the Palestinian people, a right that has been guaranteed by all international resolutions and conventions. It is the right of our people to defend themselves against the Israeli occupation."
Traditionally, Hamas' use of the word "occupation" has not been confined to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and, historically, Gaza; it also refers to the state of Israel, which Hamas says is part of the Palestinian territories.
In rejecting the government, Israel called on other countries to pressure the Palestinian government into accepting three conditions for lifting the international boycott: that Hamas renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and accept past peace agreements.
UDPATE -- March 25: From CNN: U.N. chief balks at Hamas talks, meets with Abbas.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, declaring the atmosphere "not fully ripe," shunned officials from the Islamic militant Hamas group on Sunday, dealing a setback to the new Palestinian government's efforts to win international recognition.
Ban's comments came on a day of high-profile diplomacy, with the U.N. chief and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both in the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Both hope their clout will help to prod the two sides to start talking peace again.
Hamas, branded a terrorist group by the U.S. and European Union, joined the more moderate Fatah Party in a coalition government last week. The bitter rivals have expressed hope their alliance would end international isolation of the previous hard-line Hamas government.
U.S. and European diplomats have held a stream of contacts with moderate members of the new coalition while avoiding Hamas ministers.
While welcoming the new government's formation, Ban said "the atmosphere is not fully ripe" for talks with Hamas, which has killed more than 250 Israelis in suicide bombings and refuses to recognize the Jewish state.
Posted by Forkum at March 18, 2007 05:23 PM