Turkey trying to block Israel out of NATO

In another sign of the deep hostility Turkey’s Islamist led government has for Israel, Ankara has used its membership in NATO to demand that the Jewish State not be allowed to participate in the upcoming “Active Endeavor” naval anti-terror exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. “Israel’s navy anyhow patrols the Mediterranean and since we were interested in upgrading our ties with NATO, it made sense to offer to actively participate in the operation,” a senior government official said. “The Turks, though, torpedoed the move and refused to allow one of our ships to join.” Despite Turkish opposition, Israel’s ties with NATO have improved in recent years and was recently invited by the alliance to open an observer office at headquarters in Brussels.

Iran reduced to bartering for food
In another sign of the deteriorating situation inside Iran, international commodity traders began reporting on Thursday that the Islamic Republic is desperately turning begging them to accept gold bullion stored in overseas banks or tankers of crude oil in barter for basic food staples such as rice, cooking oil and wheat. The price of food has skyrocketed on the streets of Iranian cities, leading to severe hardship for many ordinary Iranians even as the government has continued its defiance of the international community’s demand for it to reign in its renegade nuclear program. Despite the reports, Iranian officials have continued to stubbornly deny that sanctions are having any effect on the economy, while also declaring that the Iranian people will bear any hardship in support of the regime’s pursuit of nuclear technology.

Sinai gangs kidnap soldiers and police
Beduin criminal gangs in the Sinai Penninsula kidnapped two police officers and 17 soldiers from their posts along the Israeli border overnight Thursday, reportedly in reaction to the killing by police of a tobacco smuggler the day before. Observers noted that this latest incident shows the catastrophic breakdown of law and order in the Peninsula in the year since president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, along with the almost total disruption in natural gas shipments to Israel and Jordan following several attacks on pipelines.

Chilean prosecutors drop charges against Israeli
State Prosecutors in Chile dropped charges against 23-year old Israeli backpacker Rotem Singer suspected of accidentally starting a massive brushfire in the Torres del Paine national park on Wednesday. The plea agreement in which the prosecution agreed to “suspend procedures” against Singer included an agreement for him to pay a $10,000 fine and volunteer for the Jewish National Fund for two years upon his return to Israel.  “We are very happy,” his mother told Army Radio on Thursday. “We don’t yet know when he will be able to return to Israel. His father is still with him there.” Singer was greeted at the courtroom when he made his initial appearance by an angry mob which shouted anti-Semitic curses at him, while prominent members of Chile’s media and government openly spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in connection with the incident, including one lawmaker who darkly warned that the forest fire was the prelude to an Israeli invasion of the South American country.

General strike continues
Israel’s Histadrut labor federation continued a general strike over the employment status of contract workers for a third day on Friday, despite intense negotiations with government officials. The Labor court has ordered the two sides to keep talking, while also demanding that Ben Gurion Airport and other vital infrastructure continue normal operations. The open-ended general strike began Wednesday at 6 a.m., shutting down basic services including government offices, banks, trains and higher education institutions.

Palestinians give support to Doha agreement
Even as the internal firestorm within the Palestinian community rages over a recent unity agreement signed in Qatar between the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and the Islamist terror militia Hamas, Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Thursday urging world governments not to accept a Palestinian government which includes the Gaza based terrorist group. “The international community can play a role in promoting peace,” the Foreign Ministry statement said. “It must stand by the Quartet’s three principles. By clarifying to the Palestinian Authority that impenitent terrorist organizations cannot be partners with those seeking peace, the world will be telling the Palestinians that terrorism will not be tolerated or rewarded.” The Ministry also reiterated its three criteria for engaging with Hamas: that it give up terrorism, recognize Israel and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Meanwhile, PLO secretary general, Yasser Abed Rabbo issued a statement on Thursday giving “full support for the results of the Doha agreement.”

Sunni Muslim cleric in Syria thanks Iran for friendship

Against the background of spiraling violence in Syria between troops loyal to the regime of president Bashar Assad and a strengthening opposition, as well as sectarian violence between confessional factions, the top Muslim cleric in the country, Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Badreddin Hassoun issued a statement late Wednesday conveying the "thanks of the Syrian people and president for the stance of (Iranian president Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad.” According to the statement, posted on the regime’s main website, Ahmadinejad thanked the Sunni cleric and explained to him that "the main aim of the dominating and bullying powers [the United States and its allies] is to preserve the Zionist regime [Israel]." He added: "the US and its allies are seeking to launch a new war in the region and to break the line of Islamic resistance. But we believe that with wisdom and unity we can stand against them."

Meanwhile, a demonstration in solidarity with the Syrian people was scheduled for Friday and Saturday evening in Tel Aviv, including a predominantly Arab-Israeli demonstration in Jaffa and a candlelight vigil in front of the Russian Embassy to protest Moscow’s recent vetoing of UN Security Council resolutions condemning Assad.

Troops loyal to the regime continued pounding the restive city of Homs with artillery and other heavy weapons on Friday, slaughtering dozens of civilians there and in other cities around the country.

Under the diplomatic cover of China and Russia, the regime has ignored condemnations from around the world.

“I fear that the appalling brutality we are witnessing in Homs, with heavy weapons firing into civilian neighbourhoods, is a grim harbinger of things to come,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon said after briefing the Security Council in New York on Wednesday.

“What we are seeing is horrendous. The result will probably be bloody, and unfortunately the Russians are backing him,” said Turkish diplomat Selim Yenel. “The regime is not just a person, or one family. It’s a big group of people and... they want to hold on to power. That’s why we are fearing it is going to turn into a civil war, and this civil war could turn into a regional conflict.”

“This brutal assault on residential neighbourhoods shows the Syrian authorities’ contempt for the lives of their citizens in Homs,” said Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch. “Those responsible for such horrific attacks will have to answer for them.”

Several governments have cut diplomatic relations with Damascus, including the new government in Libya, which expelled Syria’s charge d’affaires and his staff on Thursday.

Egyptian Islamists throwing their weight around

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt issued a statement on Thursday belatedly joining calls by protesters for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to immediately transfer power to a civilian government instead of sticking to the original plan of waiting until after presidential elections in June. “We call on the military council to sack this government that has failed to handle this big event and to form another government,” said Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan. “If there is a government in place that is really backed by the choice of the people, it will act without regard for any pressure from anyone. It will seek to reassure the people and provide it with security.” He added a suggestion that the SCAF could appoint a Brotherhood member to become Prime Minister, who would then have authority to restore order and revive the economy.

“We are a considerable bloc that can create an agreement over such a government,” said Essam Erian, a leading Brotherhood lawmaker. “The country needs an effective government.”

Crime, riots and massive unemployment are among the top complaints of protesters, as a string of bank robberies and soccer riots have caused many people to fear being outside their homes even during the day, even as major industries like tourism have collapsed. The army has deployed in many cities, but is mainly concerned with protecting government buildings, banks and industrial facilities, with little ability or inclination to protect ordinary citizens. A general strike has been called starting on Saturday, 11 February, to coincide with the one year anniversary of the beginning of the revolt against ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Supporters of the former president have been bitter in their denunciations of the revolt.

"For 30 years, he ensured stability with the outside world, avoiding a new war with Israel, and at home too," Dalia, a government employee, told AFP. "I was against his resignation because I didn't want the Muslim Brotherhood. I was worried about the economy, tourism, and my fears have been confirmed. It's even worse with the Salafists."

In another indication of creeping Islamist domination of Egyptian society, a group of students and professors aligned with the Brotherhood shut down filming of an Egyptian TV series at Cairo's Ain Shams University Thursday, declaring that the clothing of the actresses were "indecent" and threatening to violently attack the film crews if they continued.

Netanyahu; ‘PA chose terror over peace’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a special plenum meeting in honor of the Knesset’s 63rd birthday on Wednesday, declaring that the Palestinian Authority has rejected the possibility of permanent peace with Israel by agreeing to form a unity government with the Islamist terror militia Hamas. “We said [the PA] needs to choose between the path of Hamas and the path of peace,” he said. “The Palestinians embraced terrorist organizations that call for Israel’s destruction.” Adding praise for Israel’s democracy, he added, “some mistakenly see elections as the face of democracy, but a true democracy is measured in the time between elections, by its freedoms of the individual and the balance between the branches of government. This should not be taken for granted.” In related news, the leadership of Hamas in Gaza added its voice to a rising chorus condemning the choice of PA president Mahmoud Abbas to be the prime minister in a future unity government between Hamas and the PA. The agreement was signed by Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mishaal, and the Gaza based leadership says they were not consulted and do not consent.

For the latest intelligence report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, click HERE (PDF)

Iranian website calls for genocide against Jews
The Iranian website Alef, which is tied to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently posted an entry explaining the legal and moral justifications for massive genocide against all Jews everywhere and specifically the annihilation of the Jewish State of Israel. The website warned that the opportunity to destroy Israel, which it referred to as the 'corrupting material' should not be wasted, adding a proposal for a massive military attack against Israel using long-range ballistic missiles, which it claimed would wipe out the Jewish State in a mere nine minutes. The article, written by Khamenei's strategy specialist Alireza Forghani, has been re-posted on most official conservative government websites, indicating it has the support of the regime.

Egypt dismisses threats of US aid cut
Officials of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) dismissed American threats to cut aid to Egypt if it continued with a investigations into foreign-funded pro-democracy groups and NGOs in Cairo, which has travel bans on 19 US citizens. The US gives Egypt $1.3 billion a year in military support, considered vital to keep the Egyptian military afloat. "Egypt will apply the law ... in the case of NGOs and will not back down because of aid or other reasons," army-appointed Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri told reporters.

Turkey continues to be popular despite setbacks
Turkey has suffered setbacks in the last year, including the loss of allies such as Syria’s president Bashar Assad and Libya’s Muamar Qhadaffi, who provided employment for tens of thousands of Turks. The Turkish economy has also run into rough times and the Islamist government of prime minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan has been heavily criticized for human rights violations, especially a crackdown on journalists and clashes with the restive Kurdish population. Despite all this, a new poll released this week by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation showed that in the Arab world, nearly 78% see Turkey as a champion of regional peace and role model for religion and democracy living side by side.

IDF continues large field exercises
The IDF held a large-scale artillery drill on Thursday, continuing a new program designed to train soldiers in war fighting skills which have been lost in recent decades and which cost lives in recent conflicts. In the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, the IDF fired 177,000 shells into Lebanon without impacting the rate of Hezbollah’s rocket fire into northern Israel, according to battlefield assessments. “There are two objectives when using artillery fire,” a senior corps officer explained this week. “One goal is to help forces maneuver in enemy territory by providing fire support and the second goal is to try and suppress enemy fire, which was not effective in 2006.”

Assad loyalists blast their way deeper into Homs

Forces loyal to the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad thrust into the city of Homs on Wednesday, using tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships to kill over 100 residents, according to opposition groups. According to eyewitnesses, Alawite Shabiha militias have also been unleashed on the cities Sunni Muslim population, stoking fears of an Iraq-style sectarian bloodbath. Doctors and Red Cross workers in the city attempting to treat the wounded have also reported being targeted by pro-regime forces. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Assad had lost “legitimacy” as his government continued laying the groundwork for a wide ranging coalition to intervene in the Syrian revolt. But in a stern warning against a Libyan-style military intervention, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who led Russia’s brutal war on Chechnya in the early part of the last decade, decried the pattern of Western “interference” in Libya and elsewhere as a “cult of violence.”

For a closer look at the growing crisis in Syria, click HERE

Elsewhere, diplomats from the EU are busy formulating new diplomatic and economic sanctions on the Assad regime, expected to be finalized by the end of the month.

“Obviously, details are crucial. But [EU] member states agree on the principle,” one diplomat said. “It is still a matter of discussion to what extent we can take such a measure without damaging overall trade, because it is not the intention to halt trade completely.”

Elsewhere, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé dismissed pledges by the regime of peaceful intentions as deceit, saying, “we’re not going to fall for it.”

Amid regional turmoil, IDF short of funds

Even as talk of war with Iran grows louder, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz ordered senior officers to prepare plans for a nearly complete stop to training and other activities on 1 April due to a shortfall in the defense budget. Gantz made the announcement Monday during the annual conference for all IDF officers with the rank of Colonel or higher, which is normally used to discuss Israel’s strategic challenges. “We are cancelling all kinds of exercises, from the division level down to the battalion level,” an IDF officer who was at the meeting said. “We will not be able to call up reserves, and even when we hold exercises we will be limited in the amount of ammunition we can use.” Despite a recent budget increase, the IDF is still NIS 4 billion short of what it projects it will need for the coming year, and has taken the dramatic step of suspending orders for new Merkava tanks and Namer armored personnel carriers. “There are a number of strategic projects that will be harmed due to the lack of funds,” a defense official said Tuesday.

Palestinians angrily reject Abbas as PM
Loud denunciations of the Qatar-sponsored Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement which would see Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas serve as prime minister of an interim unity government were heard across the Palestinian political spectrum on Tuesday. Some accused Abbas of supporting laws in the past which he now refuses to apply to himself and his associates, while his defenders argued that ending the power struggle with Hamas was “more important than respecting any law.” Elsewhere, legal analysts pointed out that the agreement violated previous internal agreements the Palestinians have made. “This is a scandal not only because it violates the [Palestinian] Basic Law, but also because it turns Abbas into an autocrat with absolute powers. This is unacceptable at a time when the Arab world is witnessing popular uprisings against dictators,” a Fatah official in Ramallah said. Mustafa Sawaf, a Gaza-based analyst, said the Doha deal was just “a favor to the emir of Qatar that will stay on paper, without a concrete application.”

Chinese oil companies assist Iran despite sanctions
In a sign of their contempt for recent sanctions, Iranian oil field engineers on Tuesday began preliminary production in the Yadavaran oil field in the southwest, estimated to hold 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable crude. The field runs underneath the border with Iraq and is shared by the two countries. Head of the Oil Engineering and Development Company, Naji Saadouni declared that he hoped the field would be producing 180,000 barrels per day within three years. Chinese oil companies have assisted in the field’s development, part of an estimated $40 billion in Chinese contracts in Iran since Western sanctions were first imposed.

Hezbollah leader affirms status as Iranian proxy
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah, admitted on Tuesday that his organization was funded and equipped entirely by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran and angrily denied numerous reports from law enforcement agencies worldwide that Hezbollah is using illegal activities to raise money. "We used to speak of a moral and political support while keeping silent when questioned about our military backing so as not to embarrass Iran. But today... we have decided to speak out," Nasrallah said during a TV address to his followers to mark the birth of Mohammed. "Drug trafficking is banned in Islam. And secondly, Iran's backing spares us the need for even a penny from anywhere in the world."

PA using Facebook to spy on Palestinians
The Palestinian Authority which has jurisdiction over Palestinian cities in the West Bank has been criticized recently for draconian restrictions on press freedoms, and reports emerged on Tuesday that the US-backed PA police have been aggressively monitoring the Facebook profiles of ordinary Palestinians to detect criticism of the PA. Some people have been warned to write only good things about the PA or they can find themselves arrested and/or fired from their jobs.

Friendly links show exaggeration of Israel’s ‘isolation’
In the latest evidence that Israel’s diplomatic ‘isolation’ is vastly exaggerated, 34 members of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus hosted representatives from the Canada Celebrates Israel Network on Tuesday, receiving a petition of support for the Jewish State from thousands of Canadians who agree with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that they will support Israel “whatever the cost.” Josh Reinstein, director of the Christian Allies Caucus, said Canada is one of Israel’s strongest allies because of “grassroots Christian support that has permeated Parliament.” Closer to home, an Israeli energy company, AORA Solar, is developing closer ties to countries in the Mediterranean basin. AORA opened a new gas-turbine solar thermal power station on Tuesday in the Platforma Solara de Almeria solar research and development park in Andalucía, in southern Spain. Cooperation between Israel and Spain, as well as other countries interested in green technology, remains strong.

Internal conflict wracks Iranian political scene

An event held on 1 February to commemorate the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran featuring a cardboard cutout of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini deplaning at Teheran’s international airport in a re-enactment of his return from exile 33 years ago has sparked fierce criticism from several Iranian officials and much mockery from ordinary Iranians. The ceremony, during which the cardboard Ayatollah was greeted by lines of saluting honor guards and a marching band has been the subject of dozens of parodies which have been filmed and gone viral on the internet, while several Iranian politicians have criticized the ceremony as "distasteful," "damaging," and "regretful." In related news, lawmakers have summoned firebrand President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to appear before a parliamentary committee and answer complaints about his handling of the economy, an embezzlement scandal his political faction is involved in and many other matters. It is the first time this has ever happened and observers note that it is a strong sign of the continued internal tumult afflicting the Islamic Republic.

Meanwhile, the price of food staples such as rice and bread have tripled on the streets of Iran in recent months, causing widespread anger against the government amidst reports that Iran has defaulted on payments to rice producers in India.

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton blamed Tehran for any civilian suffering caused by sanctions.

“EU measures on Iranian oil are intended to affect the potential funding for the nuclear programme. Unintended consequences on the civilian population are therefore the result of policy choices by the government," Ashton’s spokesman Michael Mann said.

Elsewhere, Iran's Foreign Ministry has denounced as "psychological war" new U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic recently signed into law by US President Barack Obama.  Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast assured journalists in Teheran on Tuesday that the “antagonistic” U.S. "sanctions will not have any impact" on Iran’s renegade nuclear program.

In Washington on Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman thanked US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the “very important message” the sanctions send to Iran and the wider world.

“The measures that were taken in the last weeks sent a very important message to the entire region,” he told Clinton, according to a statement put out by the Foreign Ministry.

CNN reports US preparing military plans for Syria

A report on CNN’s “Security Clearance” blog Tuesday indicated that the US is exploring multiple options for putting pressure on the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad, including diplomatic and economic moves but also reviewing the possibility of using military force. Until the report, US officials had insisted that a Libya style military intervention in Syria was not a serious option, but as senior US official told CNN, although diplomacy remained the first choice, the US military "would not be doing its job if it did not put some ideas on the table," adding that "absolutely no decisions have been made on military support for Syria." Meanwhile, troops loyal to the regime slaughtered another 47 civilians in the flashpoint city of Homs on Wednesday morning as well as engaging in clashes in other cities, just one day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assured reporters after speaking with Assad that the regime wanted peace.

“The president of Syria assured us he was ‘completely committed to the task of stopping violence, regardless of where it may come from’,” Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying after his meeting with Assad. Lavrov also affirmed Russia’s “readiness to help foster the swiftest exit from the crisis on the basis of positions set out in the Arab League initiative.”

But according to witnesses, Assad loyalists used tanks, rockets and other heavy weapons to fire into residential neighborhoods suspected of harboring members of the opposition. "Assad is seeing the civilized world turn against him and he thinks he will win if he uses more brutal force before the world could act," said Catherine al-Talli, senior member of the opposition Syrian National Council. The Council has rejected a Russian proposal for Russian-brokered talks with Assad, demanding he first step down and end a crackdown which has killed close to 8,000 people since protests began in early 2011.

Elsewhere, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries declared on Tuesday that they were recalling their ambassadors from Damascus and expelling Syrian envoys from their own capitals, in response to surging violence.

“It is necessary for the Arab states... to take every decisive measure faced with this dangerous escalation against the Syrian people,” the Saudi-led bloc said in a statement. “Nearly a year into the crisis, there is no glint of hope in a solution.”

France, Italy, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain have also recalled their ambassadors from Syria.

Obama further tightens sanctions on Iran

The Obama Administration announced another incremental tightening of the sanctions on Iran’s central bank on Monday, upping the pressure on the Islamic Republic in the ongoing campaign to persuade it to abandon its renegade nuclear program.  The sanctions block all property and interests of the Iranian government, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and all Iranian financial institutions that come within US jurisdiction, rather than requiring US institutions to reject, rather than block, such Iranian transactions as was done previously. Also on Monday, diplomatic sources told reporters that they believe Iran has increased the tempo of uranium enrichment activity at the underground facility in Fordow, near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom.

Palestinian farmers benefit from Israeli conference
IDF facilitates exports from Gaza

The Research and Development Unit held a conference recently  to present various developments in agriculture. The event drew tens of thousands of Israeli farmers, making it the largest event of its kind in the Jewish State. 160 Palestinian farmers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip also attended. “We made sure to reach each and every one of the farmers personally in order to invite them to the event and see who wanted to come,” explained IDF Civil Administration agricultural staff officer Samir Muadi. “They are very interested in the information so we make sure they are able to arrive at these conferences.” The buses transporting the Palestinian farmers were paid for by the Israeli government, and an Arabic speaking guide was also provided. Meanwhile, the IDF's Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories facilitated export of agricultural crops from the Gaza Strip to markets in Jordan on Sunday through the Kerem Shalom Crossing. This season over 460 tons of strawberries, 40 tons of peppers, 17 tons of cherry tomatoes and 1.5 million carnation flowers were transferred out of Gaza for export to Europe.

For a report on recent Israeli aid shipments to Gaza, click HERE (PDF)

Egyptian SCAF hopes to move up elections
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, currently ruling Egypt, sent troops to secure the the interior ministry in Cairo on Monday as clashes with protesters ground into their fifth day. The SCAF also announced its hope to speed up plans for presidential elections currently scheduled for June, in the latest indication that the SCAF is fed up with trying to govern an increasingly restive Egyptian populace. Protesters led by soccer hooligans have clashed with police in central Cairo for days, leading to over a dozen deaths and hundreds more wounded, as well as severe damage to a large swath of the city.  “What’s happening isn’t bringing down the regime but bringing down the state,” complained one Cairo resident.

Israel to deploy new counter-terror technology
On Monday Elop, a subsidiary of the Israeli defense company Elbit Systems unveiled a new system of sensors and camera which can be installed on the company’s Hermes 450 and 900 unmanned aerial vehicles and used by troops to identify enemy soldiers even if they are using high-tech camouflage. “The sensor is ideal for detecting different materials,” explained Adi Dar, Elop’s general manager. “Visually, if you have two sheets that look like metal you will not be able to tell what each is made from since they will look the same. This system can read the wavelength and identify the material.” The sensors also have applications for commercial mining and other scientific endeavors.

Evidence for the Bible uncovered in Ashdod
Giv'at Yonah (the Hill of Jonah) in Ashdod is so named because it is the traditional burial place of the Biblical prophet Jonah, and recent archeological finds have confirmed that there was indeed human settlement there corresponding to the First Temple Period. Ruins there include massive walls more than 1 m wide were found that are dated to the late 8th century and early 7th century BC. Although there are other possibilities and more research will have to be done, Sa'ar Ganor, the Ashkelon District Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority said that it was possible “that Josiah, king of Judah, occupied the fort at the time, who we know conquered territory from the Assyrians and controlled Ashdod-Yam in the seventh century BC."


Netanyahu blasts PA-Hamas unity pact

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted sharply to Monday’s report of a reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian Authority and the Islamist terror militia Hamas, declaring in an open message on the PMO’s website that “If President Abbas moves to implement what was signed today in Doha, he will abandon the path of peace and join forces with the enemies of peace. Hamas is an enemy of peace. It’s an Iranian-backed terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction. You can't have it both ways. It's either a pact with Hamas or peace with Israel. It's one or the other. You can't have them both.” Another senior government official agreed, saying “anyone in the international community concerned about the peace process should be intervening now with the Palestinians to prevent the consummation of this marriage.”

The reconciliation pact reached between Hamas and the Fatah faction, which dominates the PA, in an intense round of negotiations in Doha, Qatar, calls for Abbas to serve as an interim prime minister of a Palestinian unity government made up of “independent technocrats.” Elections in the near future are also part of the plan, as well as a program of rebuilding the Gaza Strip. The EU has declared that it would provide financial aid to the new government as long as it remained peaceful and recognized Israel’s right to exist.

“Now we are waiting to see what will be with this agreement,” a senior Israeli official said. “We are making it clear that this agreement would be a body blow to the whole process. This sort of agreement could lead to the end of the peace process.”

Elsewhere, a US State Department spokesman reiterated the US policy that Hamas must accept the international community’s three conditions has not changed.

Abbas told reporters shortly after the signing ceremony that Fatah “did not sign this agreement for show... but because we plan to implement it” adding that “reconciliation is in the Palestinian and Arab national interest.”

Hamas chief Khaled Mishaal said the two factions were “very serious about closing the chapter of division and strengthening” their national unity so as to “devote all our power to confronting the occupying enemy,” (in a reference to Israel.)


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