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Israeli diplomats see opportunity in Fatah-Hamas accord

Palestinian reconciliation could help Jerusalem mend ties with Washington, Foreign Ministry believes.

Palestinians 2011 5 4Enlarge
Palestinian Fatah delegation chief Azzam al-Ahmed (R) shakes hands with Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq after a joint press conference in Cairo on April 27, 2011 as the rival Palestinian groups reached an 'understanding' to set up a transitional unity government and to hold elections, prompting a swift warning from Israel. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fiery denunciation of the Palestinian reconciliation deal between rival factions Fatah and Hamas, the country’s diplomats actually see it as an opportunity, a confidential memo reveals.

With the Palestinian deal due to be signed in Cairo Wednesday, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the Foreign Ministry sees the agreement differently from Netanyahu’s public remarks.

The creation of a Fatah-Hamas unity government in the Palestinian Authority would offer Israel a strategic opportunity, a confidential memo says.

"The Palestinian move is not only a security threat but also a strategic opportunity to create genuine change in the Palestinian context," the report states, according to Haaretz. "Such change may serve the long-term interests of Israel."

The report, delivered to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman this week, recommends that rather than offering blanket opposition to the deal, Israel should take a "constructive approach that would sharpen the dilemma on the Palestinian side" over Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel.

A more positive approach towards Palestinian reconciliation efforts would improve relations between Jerusalem and Washingon, which have faltered under Netanyahu and the White House administration of Barack Obama.

"Israel must be a team player and coordinate its response to a Palestinian unity government with the (US) administration," the report states. "This will empower the United States and serve Israeli interests."

The report was prepared by the Foreign Ministry’s policy planning division, which is staffed by career diplomats and is responsible for foreign policy recommendations, Haaretz reported.

After the rival Palestinian factions announced their accord last week in Cairo, Netanyahu swiftly condemned the deal.

"The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both," he said in a televised statement within two hours of the Palestinian announcement.

But the Haaretz report suggests the Prime Minister jumped in without consulting his government or foreign advisers.

"At the current stage, prior to the confirmation of the agreement, Israel must be careful in its policy and declarations," the report states in an oblique criticism of Netanyahu.

The report recommends a measured Israeli response to the potential formation of a Palestinian unity government that takes into consideration the need to address Palestinian plans to seek international recognition for a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly in September.

"We must avoid expressions or moves that will weaken Israel against the Palestinians in the international arena, especially in view of the strategic challenges that are expected during the year," the report stressed.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu continued his offensive against, demanding that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to cancel the deal immediately.

Netanyahu will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London Wednesday before traveling to Paris Thursday for a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He is expected to lobby both to oppose the reconciliation deal.