GAZA/RAMALLAH: The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) announced a unity pact yesterday, deepening a crisis in US-brokered peace talks with Israel.
The move envisions a unity government within five weeks and national elections six months later.
“This is the good news we tell our people: the era of division is over,” Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah said to loud applause at a Palestinian news conference also attended by representatives of the PLO.
Israel said after the announcement that Abbas had chosen Hamas over peace, and cancelled a session of US-brokered talks with the Palestinians that had been scheduled for last night in Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: “Whoever chooses Hamas does not want peace.”
Israeli Channel 2 TV said Netanyahu would convene an emergency session of his security cabinet today to discuss his response.
Washington said it was disappointed by the deal, which State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said “could seriously complicate our efforts — not just our efforts but the efforts of the parties to extend their negotiations.”
Along with the United States and the European Union, Israel views Hamas as a terrorist organisation and says Abbas’ efforts to unify with the group show he is not serious about extending the troubled negotiations.
The talks, aimed at ending its decades-old conflict with the Palestinians and establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, are scheduled to end on April 29.
Abbas said the pact would not interfere with peace efforts.
“There’s no contradiction at all between unity and talks, and we’re committed to establishing a just peace based on a two-state solution,” he said in a statement following the deal.
Qatari Foreign Minister H E Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah congratulated Haniyah.