US envoy: Hamas must disarm to join Palestinian government


JERUSALEM (AP) – President Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy said Thursday that if Hamas wants to play a role in any Palestinian government it must renounce violence and commit to negotiations with Israel, demands the Islamic militant group has always rejected.

Jason Greenblatt’s statement was the first American comment on the advancing reconciliation efforts between the rival Palestinian Fatah and Hamas factions, and echoed Israeli demands.

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

Under Egyptian auspices, the Palestinian factions last week reached a preliminary agreement and have formed committees to sort out unresolved issues, most notably who will control Hamas’ massive arsenal. The deal has yet to be implemented, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah is still in talks with Hamas over ending a 10-year split.

Greenblatt has been shuttling through the region in search of a formula to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which last broke down in 2014. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said there would be no talks with the Palestinians unless Hamas agrees to the same conditions laid out by Greenblatt.

Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and other Western nations, does not plan to officially be part of the next government. It has said it will not give up its weapons, and intends to wield influence behind the scenes.

Abbas seeks an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza. Israel captured the territories in 1967, though it withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 and seized Gaza the following year following clashes with Fatah, leaving the Palestinians divided between two governments. Previous reconciliation attempts have failed, and there is no guarantee that the current round of talks will succeed.