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Israeli Cabinet Rejects New Palestinian Unity Government


The Israeli Cabinet has overwhelmingly rejected a new Palestinian unity government in which militants and moderates share power. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the Palestinians are urging both Israel and the international community to soften their positions.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Cabinet that Israel will not work with the new Palestinian government.

"The platform of the government is very problematic because it calls for resistance and terror and refuses to recognize Israel," Mr. Olmert said. He said the international community should continue to isolate the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Olmert ruled out peace talks, but said he would maintain limited contacts on humanitarian issues with Palestinian moderates like President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Cabinet endorsed the Prime Minister's position by a 19-2 vote.

The new Palestinian government was sworn in on Saturday, as the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas agreed to share power with the rival and more moderate Fatah faction headed by Mr. Abbas. But Hamas rejected two key international demands for lifting crippling sanctions on the Palestinian Authority-namely, renunciation of violence and recognition of Israel.

Nevertheless, the new Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr urged Israel to cooperate with the new government.

Abu Amr dismissed the calls for formal recognition of Israel as "semantics." He told Israel Radio that Hamas agreed to "respect" previous peace agreements which do recognize the Jewish state.

Israel says that is not enough.

Now, both Israel and the Palestinians will lobby the international community to accept their respective points of view.