What the U.S. is requiring from Hamas to join a Palestinian unity government

(JTA) – Any Palestinian government “must unambiguously and explicitly” commit to nonviolence, recognize Israel, and accept previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the peace process said.

The statement issued Thursday by Jason Greenblatt is the first response by the United States to the Palestinian reconciliation agreement signed this week between the Fatah Party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the terrorist Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The Trump administration has been working to jump-start the peace talks, a stated major goal of the administration.

“If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements,” the statement said.

The requirements, which also include a commitment to peaceful negotiations, represent the conditions originally set down by the Middle East Quartet in 2002 to help shepherd peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The Quartet is made up of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.

“All parties agree that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine, and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there,” Greenblatt also wrote.

Hamas rejected the statement.

“This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests,” senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told the French news agency AFP.

Naim also said the statement comes “under pressure from the extreme right-wing Netanyahu government.”

Greenblatt’s statement comes more than a day after the Israeli government announced conditions for negotiating with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas that include recognition of Israel and a halt to all terrorist activities in accordance with the rules set down by the Middle East Quartet; disarming of Hamas’ military infrastructure; and the return of the bodies of fallen Israeli soldiers and several civilians being held by Hamas in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are scheduled to meet next month in Cairo, where they signed the reconciliation pact, to discuss forming a new unity government, as well as elections for president and parliament.

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