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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel Mulls Suspension of Abbas-Hamas Ties

JERUSALEM -- Israel is considering suspending contacts with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if his new unity government with Hamas does not meet international demands, Israeli officials said Monday.

The unity deal and Israel's response could hamper U.S. efforts to revive stalled peace talks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans a three-way summit with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Feb. 19.

"One option under serious discussion is severing contacts with Abu Mazen," one of the officials involved in the deliberations said, referring to Abbas by his moniker.

An Israeli defense official said ties with Mohammed Dahlan, a top Abbas aide who had spearheaded Fatah's power struggle with Hamas, were also in doubt.

Dahlan took part in the Saudi-brokered unity talks, which led to the signing of a power-sharing pact in Mecca last Thursday, though his role in the new Palestinian government is unclear.

"Things are really in the air," the defense official said.

Israeli officials said any suspension might only be temporary. Top advisers to Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and other ministers met late Monday to consider the options.

Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, declined to comment on what she called "hypotheticals."

A Hamas official had said Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh could unveil the new government before a February 21 meeting of the "Quartet" of Middle East peace mediators.

But Salah al-Bardaweel, spokesman of the Hamas parliament bloc, said Monday that it might take another four weeks because Fatah and Hamas had yet to agree on who would take the deputy prime minister and interior minister posts.

More than 90 Palestinians were killed in Gaza in factional warfare between late December and last week's unity deal.

Olmert said Sunday that it was too soon to pass judgment on the unity government, but top Israeli officials said the agreement between Abbas and Hamas had failed to meet conditions set by the Quartet for ending the crippling economic sanctions imposed after Hamas came to power last March.

"We expect the Palestinian government to accept all three of the international community's conditions, and that includes recognition of Israel's right to exist, full acceptance and implementation of former agreements, complete stopping of terror actions and a clear renunciation of terror and violence," Eisin said.

The Mecca agreement made no explicit commitment to recognize Israel.