Israel says no talks with Palestinian govt that includes armed Hamas

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (C) chairs a reconciliation government cabinet meeting in Gaza City on October 3, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2017
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Israel says no talks with Palestinian govt that includes armed Hamas

JERUSALEM: Israel’s government decided Tuesday not to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas if the Islamist movement does not disarm, recognize the country and give up violence.
The decision by Israel’s security cabinet, announced in a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, comes after rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas signed a landmark unity deal last week aimed at ending their decade-long split.
The statement said negotiations would not be held until a range of conditions were met — and it seemed unlikely that all demands could be reached.
“The government of Israel will not carry out political negotiations with a Palestinian government that relies on Hamas, a terror organization which calls for the destruction of Israel, until it fulfils the following conditions,” the statement said.
Beyond the initial three, it also said Hamas must no longer be supported by Iran, which provides it with military assistance.
In addition, it said the remains of two missing Israeli soldiers must be returned from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
Three Israeli civilians believed held in Gaza, all said to be mentally unstable, must also be returned, it said.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, signed the unity agreement in Cairo on Thursday.
The Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization has recognized Israel, unlike Hamas.
The Palestinian Authority, currently dominated by Fatah, is due to resume control of the Gaza Strip by December 1 under the deal.
However, previous such attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed.
A major sticking point is expected to be Hamas’s refusal to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing.
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, but diplomats say it would be possible to form a unity government that they could deal with that does not officially include the Islamist movement.
A previous attempt at a unity government in 2014 was made up of technocrats deemed acceptable by the international community, though that bid fell apart.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade.
Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years.
Hamas seized Gaza in 2007 in a near civil war with Fatah that followed an electoral dispute after polls won by the Islamist movement.
After Hamas’s victory, it faced demands from the international community that it renounce violence and recognize Israel, which it refused to do.
Hamas has faced increasing isolation and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip in recent months, including a severe electricity shortage.
Abbas has imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip to pressure Hamas, including cutting electricity payments, which has worsened the shortages.
Hamas has reached out to Cairo for help, hoping to have the Rafah border with Egypt opened.
In return, Cairo has pressed Hamas to move forward on reconciliation with Fatah.
With previous failed reconciliation attempts in mind, many analysts are treating the latest bid with caution, waiting to see if actual change will occur on the ground.


Turkey’s Erdogan may seek coalition if AK Party fails to get majority

Updated 23 min 20 sec ago
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Turkey’s Erdogan may seek coalition if AK Party fails to get majority

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his ruling AK Party could seek to form a coalition if it fails to secure a parliamentary majority in Sunday’s elections, but said the prospect of this is “very, very low.”
Polls indicate the elections may be closer than anticipated when he called the snap elections in April, suggesting he may be pushed to a second-round run-off for the presidency, and his AKP could lose its majority in the 600-seat assembly.
“If it is under 300 (seats), then there could be a search for a coalition,” Erdogan said in an interview with the Kral FM radio station late on Wednesday.
He added that the probability of this was “very, very low.”
The Turkish lira, which has slumped more than 20 percent against the dollar this year, has extended losses over the last week on concern about the prospect of political uncertainty following the elections.
Investors fear political deadlock if the AK Party loses its majority in parliament as it would put a brake on Erdogan’s ability to exercise the powers of the new presidential system.
The AKP formed an alliance with the nationalist MHP before the elections, which will herald a switch to a new powerful executive presidency narrowly approved in a referendum last year.
Opposition parties also formed an alliance, which excluded the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). If the HDP exceeds the 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament, it will be harder for the AKP to achieve a majority.
Under the constitutional changes going into effect after the elections, the number of lawmakers in parliament will increase to 600 from 550 currently.
The AKP has held a majority in parliament for nearly all its 15 years in power, only losing it in the June 2015 election. After parties failed to form a coalition then, Erdogan called a fresh election in November which restored the AKP majority.
MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said on Monday another election could be held if his alliance with the AKP cannot form a majority in parliament after Sunday’s vote.