Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Hamas could wrest the West Bank from the rule of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, just as it did in the Gaza Strip in 2007.
“Everyone knows that Hamas could take over the Palestinian Authority”, Netanyahu’s office quoted him as telling members of a Jewish bible study circle meeting at his Jerusalem residence.
“It could happen after an (Israeli-Palestinian peace) agreement, it could happen before an agreement, like it happened in Gaza,” he said.
He revealed this opinion three weeks before a general election in which he will seek to boost his support amongst religious-nationalist settlers and their backers.
“Therefore, as opposed to the voices that I have heard recently urging me to run forward, make concessions, withdraw, I think that the diplomatic process must be managed responsibly and sagaciously and not in undue haste,” he said in an apparent retort to recent comments from dovish President Shimon Peres.
Peres on Sunday urged Israel to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, saying Abbas was a willing partner with whom an agreement could be reached.
“There is not much time left”, Peres warned.
Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since September 2010. The Palestinians have insisted on a settlement freeze before returning to the negotiating table and the Israelis have called for no preconditions.
On Monday Peres, whose constitutional role is largely ceremonial, said there was no fundamental reason not to talk to Hamas if it were to renounce violence.
“There is nothing wrong with talking with Hamas, if you get an answer”, Peres told local Christian leaders at a New Year’s reception in Jerusalem.