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Netanyahu rejects negotiations with unity govt

April 28, 2011 9:33 P.M. (Updated: April 29, 2011 8:04 P.M.)
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday with members of his government in a meeting during which it was decided to refuse negotiations with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas, Israeli news reports said.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a number of consultations on the issue before making the decision not to deal with a unity government, which was declared Wednesday in Cairo, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.

"If the situation changes and Hamas alters its ways and recognizes Israel, then we'll see," a political source told Ynet. "There will be no talks or negotiations with the Palestinians until the picture becomes clearer."

The Palestinian unity deal crossed "a red line," Israel's settler Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday, warning that an array of measures could be taken against the Palestinian Authority.

"With this accord, a red line has been crossed," the ultra-nationalist foreign minister told Israel's military radio a day after the Palestinian parties announced a surprise reconciliation agreement.

"We have at our disposal a vast arsenal of measures including the lifting of VIP status for Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad, which will not allow them to move freely," he said referring to President Mahmoud Abbas and his caretaker prime minister.

"We could also freeze the transfer of taxes collected by Israel for the Palestinian Authority," added Lieberman, who leads the Israel Beitenu party in the coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

After 18 months of largely fruitless reconciliation talks, delegations from Hamas and Fatah meeting in Cairo on Wednesday announced a deal to form an interim unity government of technocrats with a view to holding presidential and legislative elections within a year.

The deal raises the prospect of an end to the devastating political divide that has seen the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority govern the West Bank while the Islamist Hamas movement control the Gaza Strip.

The move would strengthen Palestinian bids for independence as a unified government, depending on the outcome of elections.
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