Israel: Hamas, Fatah Signing 'Photo-Op'

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel said Wednesday's ceremony in Cairo uniting Hamas and Fatah in a Palestinian unity government is little more than a "photo op."

Hamas and Fatah signed the agreement after Egyptian mediators helped resolve some last minute arguments, reportedly including where Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal would sit and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' insistence that he be the sole speaker at the ceremony.

"Beyond the photo op, where is the reconciliation? Where is the unity they are proclaiming? There is no unity because Hamas has…expressed its commitment to violence only -- to reject the conditions of the international community to be considered a respectable party," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told CBN News.

Four Israeli Arab Knesset members attended the ceremony. MKs Ahmed Tibi, Taleb el-Sana, Mohammed Barakeh and Wasil Taha were enthusiastic about the unity deal.

The Egyptian government extended the invitation to acknowledge their contribution to reconciling the two Palestinian factions.

"We are happy to be part of this event," el-Sana said. "It is an historic day for the Palestinian people and leadership and an historic day for peace-lovers," he said.

El-Sana said the Israeli government is "living in the past and missing out on this historic change."

MK Tibi said the agreement "put an end to a dark chapter in Palestinian national history."

"Palestinian unity will bring on the end of the occupation and the founding of a Palestinian state with or without Israel," Tibi said.

Palmor declined to comment on the Arab Knesset members' participation at Wednesday's ceremony, but many Israelis view them as a fifth column because of their close ties with Israel's enemies.

Meanwhile Abbas, who arrived in Cairo Tuesday, told reporters he will not pressure Hamas to accept Israel's right to exist.

"We will not demand that Hamas recognize Israel," Abbas told reporters in Cairo. "We will establish a government of technocrats and not ask Hamas to recognize Israel," he said.

Abbas' advisor, Nabil Shaath, said international demands on Hamas to acknowledge Israel are "unfair, unworkable and do not make sense," Israel Radio reported.

The P.A.'s stance in essence disregards the three benchmark requirements established by the Quartet (U.S., E.U., U.N. and Russia): namely, to recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. 

Former President Jimmy Carter urged the international community to back the P.A. unity government.

"If the United States and the international community support this effort, they can help Palestinian democracy and establish the basis for a unified Palestinian democracy and establish the basis for a united Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza that can make a secure peace with Israel. If they remain aloof or undermine the agreement, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory may deteriorate with a new round of violence against Israel," Carter wrote in The Washington Post.

But Palmor said Hamas has never used "the vocabulary of peace, reconciliation and compromise."

"Hamas is never even using the vocabulary of peace and reconciliation and compromise. These words are not even in their vocabulary so how can he even think that they are partners for something," Palmor told CBN News.

"Of course if they changed their discourse and their vision, then yes they could be considered valid partners. We've always said that. There are three basic conditions," he said, referring to the Quartet's benchmarks. "But if they continue to reject these conditions, what are we supposed to think about their intentions?" he asked.

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Tzippe Barrow

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From her perch high atop the mountains surrounding Jerusalem, Tzippe Barrow helps provide a bird’s eye view of events unfolding in her country.

She and her husband made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago. Barrow hopes that providing a biblical perspective of today’s events in Israel will help people in the nations to better understand the centrality of this state and the Jewish people to God’s unfolding plan of redemption for all mankind.