Hamas should disarm and recognize Israel if it is to join a Palestinian unity government with rival group Fatah, the United States’ Mideast envoy said Thursday. It’s the first comment from the US following the landmark agreement between the two factions last week.
In a statement released Thursday, US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt said Fatah, which controls the US-friendly Palestinian Authority, must “assume full, genuine and unhindered civil and security responsibilities” in Gaza, which Hamas controls.
“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations,” the statement reads.
Last week, the two long-time rivals reached a reconciliation agreement in a deal brokered by Egypt in Cairo. The accord handed control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, but made no mention of Hamas’ weapons or military wing. It remains unclear how this issue will be resolved.
In a statement, Hamas said it “rejected” Greenblatt’s comments.
“The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) expresses its rejection of American bias in favor of Israeli positions, expressed by Jason Greenblatt, and represents a blatant interference in internal Palestinian affairs, aimed at putting sticks in the wheels of reconciliation,” read the statement.
“Hamas asserts that it is moving ahead with the implementation of all reconciliation steps and will not pay attention to any attempt to sabotage or disrupt this path.”
Following the announcement of the deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that Israel would not negotiate with a Palestinian government that included Hamas, calling the group “a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel.”
In a statement, Netanyahu said negotiations could only take place under certain conditions, including disarming Hamas, handing complete security control of Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority and ending Hamas’ ties to Iran.
Earlier this year, Hamas released a new policy document, officially accepting for the first time the idea of a Palestinian state that would fall within internationally recognized 1967 borders, but refusing to recognize Israel and rejecting calls to give up its armed fight against Israel.
Hamas has traditionally been shut out of the peace process and is designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Britain and the European Union.
In an interview with CNN’s Nic Robertson in May, then leader of Hamas Khaled Meshaal called on Trump to seize a “historic opportunity to pressure Israel … to find an equitable solution for the Palestinian people.”