Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his opposition to reconciliation between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas on Monday, after the parties signed an agreement in Qatar to form a unity government to prepare for elections.
“Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks to destroy Israel and is supported by Iran,” Netanyahu insisted during a meeting of his Likud party.
“I have said more than once that the Palestinian Authority must chose between an alliance with Hamas, or peace with Israel. Hamas and peace do not go together.”
Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal agreed that Abbas will head the joint government at a meeting in Doha on Monday.
The accord also included agreements on releasing political prisoners, reforming the Palestinian National Council and activating the PLO for the next elections, Palestine TV said.
Fatah and Hamas agreed to end four years of bitter dispute and rival governments in May 2011, but the deal has repeatedly stalled as disagreements rumble on. The candidate to lead an interim unity government had been a key sticking point.
After the May deal, Israeli officials froze the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf under international agreements. When Mashaal and Abbas met again in November, Israel moved to maintain a second freeze, initially imposed after Abbas applied for full Palestinian membership of the UN.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office after the Qatar meeting on Monday did not refer to punitive measures, but warned that the deal would imperil the peace process.
“If Abbas implements what has been signed today in Doha, then he has chosen to renounce the path of peace and embrace Hamas.
“I tell Abbas: you can’t have your cake and eat it, either you have a deal with Hamas or chose peace with Israel.”
PLO officials held five rounds of exploratory talks with Israeli representatives in January, but insist they cannot progress to direct negotiations until Israel halts settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.