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Monday, May 9, 2011     GET REAL

Israel agrees to recognize Palestinian government that includes Hamas

JERUSALEM — Israel, despite threats to torpedo any Palestinian reconciliation deal, is quietly preparing to accept a Hamas-Fatah government.


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  • Officials said the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not take measures to threaten the proposed unity government of the Palestinian Authority. They said such an assurance has already been relayed to the United States.

    "Israel set a precedent when it accepted a previous Palestinian government that consisted mostly of Hamas members," an official said.

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    In 2006, the then-government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recognized PA elections that ushered in a Hamas-controlled Cabinet and legislature, Middle East Newsline reported. The Cabinet did not last long before it was dismantled by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the rival Fatah movement.

    Officials said Israel plans to maintain cooperation with the any PA government, even one that included Hamas. They said this would include security and financial cooperation, particularly the relay of tax revenues from Palestinian laborers employed in Israel.

    "Overall, we have to give the Palestinian Authority money," Israel Security Agency director Yuval Diskin said. "If we, the Americans and the West do not give money, there will be no Palestinian Authority. This would be a strategic decision. At the moment, as long as the Palestinian Authority remains status quo, there is no reason to change our policies toward them or the security arrangements we have with them."

    The Israeli intelligence community has assessed that Abbas would not significantly change PA policy during any Fatah-Hamas government. Officials said intelligence agencies doubted whether Fatah and Hamas would agree to genuine power-sharing or even elections in 2012 — measures cited in preparation for the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank.

    "This [deal] came into being mostly for the sake of appearances in an attempt to show unity," Diskin said. "From here on, there are many things both sides don't know how to apply in theory, let alone on the ground."

    In a briefing on May 4, Diskin played down the Fatah-Hamas agreement as well as the prospect of security cooperation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The outgoing ISA chief said Hamas took a tactical decision in working with Fatah and was driven by a need to improve relations with neighboring Egypt.

    "The chances for a true reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas over the next two to three years are slim," Diskin said.

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