JERUSALEM -- Israel and the Palestinian government of President Mahmoud Abbas have resumed security talks after a long break, both sides said yesterday, a new sign of cooperation between Israel and Palestinian moderates since the Hamas takeover of Gaza.
In parallel crackdowns on the militant Islamic Hamas, security forces loyal to Abbas have taken dozens into custody and Israel has also made arrests, underlining their common interest in preventing a Hamas takeover of the West Bank.
Israeli and Palestinian security officials met in an undisclosed location on Monday to "talk about how to move forward with security cooperation," Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told the Associated Press. Eisin characterized the renewed talks as a first step and said the sides were not exchanging names of wanted militants or coordinating arrests.
Israeli security officials played down the development, saying meetings between the two sides had continued after Hamas took control of the Palestinian government in March last year. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity due to security rules, said the recent meetings were on the same level as the previous ones -- area commanders.
Palestinian officials said it was the latest in a series of contacts in recent weeks. The Palestinians asked Israel to ease restrictions on movement within the West Bank and to stop going after gunmen loyal to Abbas, but Israel gave no assurances, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, accused Abbas of being an Israeli collaborator. The meetings, Abu Zuhri said, "render the [Palestinian] security agencies tools in the hands of Israeli intelligence."
Abbas expelled Hamas from the Palestinian government after its Gaza takeover. Israel and the West responded by renewing ties with the new, more moderate Palestinian government, ending a punishing aid boycott.
Israelis and Palestinians held similar security contacts in the 1990s, under terms of interim peace accords, but they were cut off after Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted in late 2000. They resumed sporadically in the years that followed.
Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, and the European Union. It rejects the existence of the Jewish state and has been responsible for killing hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks.