Israel must conduct itself responsibly in the diplomatic process, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday. Netanyahu also warned of the danger that Hamas could take over Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria.
Netanyahu made the statements during a bible study group meeting in memory of his late father-in-law Shmuel Ben-Artzi at the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem. Netanyahu's words came amidst the backdrop of recent unrest in the Judea and Samaria and concerns that a Third Intifada could erupt.
Netanyahu's statements also appeared to be an implicit response to President Shimon Peres. Earlier this week, Peres called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a partner for peace and also said that Israel should be willing to talk to Hamas if the group accepts the conditions of the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators.
Netanyahu cautioned on Tuesday that the unrest sweeping the Middle East could reach the Palestinian areas in Judea and Samaria.
"In this week's Torah portion, it is written 'Now there arose a new king over Egypt,'" Netanyahu said. "As it was then, it is now. In Egypt, the regime has changed. In Syria, the regime is weakening. This could also happen in the Palestinian Authority areas in Judea and Samaria. Every intelligent person knows that Hamas could take over the Palestinian Authority. It could happen after agreement or it could happen before an agreement, like it did in Gaza."
"Contrary to voices I've been hearing in recent days that have been urging me to rush forward, to make concessions and to withdraw, I think that in a diplomatic process one must act responsibly, not hastily," Netanyahu said, without mentioning Peres by name. "Otherwise, a third Iranian terror base will arise in the heart of the country. Peace is only achieved once security is guaranteed."
The bible study group at Netanyahu's official residence was held in cooperation with the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Netanyahu's wife Sara and two sons Yair and Avner participated in the event, as did Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau and Israel Defense Forces Chief Rabbi Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz.
Meanwhile, Hamas rejected on Tuesday Peres' call for it to accept the Quartet's conditions and hold talks with Israel.
"There can only be a dialogue about peace once the Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands disappears," Hamas said.
Hamas official Salah Bardawil told the group's al-Risala media outlet that "our movement rejects any dialogue or negotiations with the occupation."
"Such dialogue would mean compromising holy Palestinian lands, which is not acceptable. Peres must choose whether to continue to absorb the blows of the resistance or to escape from Palestine with his people in order to live in peace."
Egyptian media reported on Tuesday that Hamas and Fatah officials have responded positively to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's call for the two groups to hold talks in Cairo in ten days about implementing their reconciliation agreement.
The unfulfilled Palestinian reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo a year and a half ago. At the time, the Israeli government criticized Abbas for "preferring Hamas over peace."