Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer of bilateral talks on Tuesday. Hamdallah was quoted as saying, “Time is short. Netanyahu is trying to buy time, but this time he will not escape the international community.” Netanyahu told French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was visiting Israel on Monday, that he seeks a bilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying he would meet him “in Paris or wherever” and that “every difficult issue will be on the table.” Netanyahu said to Valls, “The Palestinian leadership doesn’t see the French initiative as an inducement for compromise, but rather as a way to avoid it. In fact, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Hamdallah, let slip the other day his hope for an imposed timetable, rather than a negotiated peace.” Netanyahu has repeatedly called for face-to-face meetings with Abbas to discuss peace, but the two leaders have not personally discussed the issue since 2010. The Palestinians have instead sought to circumvent the Oslo process to pursue a unilateral bid for statehood through recognition at the United Nations. Since 2005, the Palestinian Authority and Abbas have been engaged in a campaign they call the “Palestine 194” campaign. It is their attempt to gain recognition as the 194th member of the United Nations without a negotiated peace settlement.
Netanyahu told the Knesset that he was willing to take “brave steps” for peace with the Palestinians, and said to Valls, “Peace is not achieved in international UN-style conferences, nor through international diktats that come of meetings of countries around the world sitting to decide our fate.” He continued, “Peace is achieved through direct negotiations where the Palestinian Authority would face a historic choice: recognize a Jewish state side by side with a demilitarized Palestinian state, or try to eliminate it.”
The Secretary-General of the Palestinian Presidency, Al-Tayeb Abd al-Rahim, speaking on behalf of Abbas, said in a speech to Palestinian security forces on Sunday that the Palestinians “are a people who love death more than life when it fights for Palestine.” Al-Rahim also stated, “Our morale will not be influenced or shaken by anything. We will not grow soft or deviate towards personal interests for the sake of dubious goals such as establishing a state or an emirate in Gaza, or establishing a state with temporary borders in the West Bank.”
Hamas announced that it will carry out 13 public executions in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, presenting a challenge to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who must approve all execution orders.
The condemned prisoners have been charged with murder and robbery, although none have been accused of collaborating with Israel. Capital punishment is permitted under Palestinian penal law for murder, drug trafficking, collaborating with Israel, and selling land to Jews.“Capital punishments will be implemented soon in Gaza,” said Ismail Jaber, the Hamas-appointed attorney general in Gaza, without specifying a specific time. He requested that they take place before “a large crowd.”
“The victims’ families have the right to demand that the punishments be implemented,” said another Hamas official, Khalil al-Haya, at Friday prayers.
While death sentences have to be approved by the head of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas challenged Abbas’ legitimacy since the terrorist group won the 2006 elections in Gaza and violently expelled Fatah, the PA’s ruling party, from the territory. The PA’s current inability to extend its authority over Gaza complicates pretensions toward a viable Palestinian state that would include the coastal enclave.
Hamas last staged public executions during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, when it killed six men accused of collaborating with Israel after prayers at Gaza’s main mosque. It similarly executed six suspected collaborators in 2012, tying one of the corpses to a motorcycle and dragging it through the streets.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that nine death sentences have been handed down this year in Gaza, and two in the West Bank. Since the PA’s founding in 1994, 170 Palestinians have been sentenced to death and 30 executed. Most executions have taken place in Gaza.