Steinitz: PA Should Not Be Part of Gaza Deal

YERUSHALAYIM -
Minister Yuval Steinitz. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

One of the reported holdups in the third-party negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a Gaza ceasefire has been the insistence of the Palestinian Authority that it take charge of civilian affairs in Gaza, shunting Hamas aside – but in an interview with Reshet Bet Monday, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is also a member of the Security Cabinet, said that the scope of the deal should be limited – and that it should not include the PA.

Part of the deal would entail Israel taking steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but “it is the PA and its head, Mahmoud Abbas, who created this crisis over the past several months. Their objective is to push us into a confrontation with Hamas,” said Steinitz. “It is actually Abbas, who is supposed to be our partner in peace talks, who is inciting the most against the existence of Israel.”

In a sharply worded speech in Ramallah a week ago, Abbas said that “we will not agree to Gaza being removed from the PA.” If the PA is not given full authority over Gaza, he said, then Hamas should take over PA-controlled areas in Yehudah and Shomron – a condition he knows neither Israel, the United States, or even Jordan and Egypt would agree to, Maariv said.

“There is no connection between the ceasefire and the unity talks between Palestinian factions,” he said. “We also do not agree to the delivery and distribution of humanitarian assistance to Gaza other than via the PA,” he added. In addition, the PA would not accept U.S. assistance on negotiations in any way, until the American Embassy was moved out of Yerusahalayim.

Osama al-Kawasme, a PA spokesperson accused the U.S. of engineering the deal between Israel and Hamas “in order to further divide the Palestinians. They want to preserve the division between us and thereby destroy any possibility of ending the occupation. Fatah has stressed that no Palestinian group has a right to pursue negotiations with Israel. The PA is the only body that can negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people. It is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians. Hamas is dealing a death blow to our national identity,” Kawasme added.

On Monday Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing for transporting merchandise into Gaza. Some 440 trucks are set to pass through the crossing Monday, carrying a wide variety of products. Liberman said that he had authorized the opening because the situation on the Gaza border had been relatively quiet in recent days. “Quiet will be answered with quiet,” said Liberman, adding that as far as he was concerned, the only ceasefire agreement he was interested in “is the one in the field, where there is quiet on both sides of border, and not the one on paper.”