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Israel halts peace talks after Palestinian unity deal
Published Thursday 24/04/2014 (updated) 26/04/2014 09:39
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A woman waves the national flag as she celebrates the agreement
to form a unity government in Gaza on April 23, 2014.
(AFP Mahmud Hams)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel said on Thursday it was halting peace talks with the Palestinians following their unity deal with the Hamas rulers of Gaza, as the faltering US-backed process approached its deadline.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the agreement between the rival factions as a move that "kills peace," but senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat blamed Israeli settlement activity for killing off the process.

On Wednesday, the Palestine Liberation Organization -- internationally recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinian people -- and the Gaza Strip's Islamist Hamas rulers signed a reconciliation agreement.

They agreed to form a "national consensus" government under Abbas within weeks.

Israel's security cabinet announced in response on Thursday it would "not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas" and vowed "measures" in response, but did not elaborate.

Any new measures would follow a raft of financial sanctions unveiled this month when the Palestinians applied to join 15 international treaties, which followed after Israel refused to release a fourth and final batch of Palestinians who have been in Israeli prisons for more than two decades.

"The pact with Hamas kills peace," Netanyahu told NBC television shortly after the Israeli cabinet decision.

The Palestinian unity deal came as Washington made last-ditch efforts to extend the talks beyond their April 29 deadline.

'Israel chose settlements'

Netanyahu said it was signed "while Israel was making efforts to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians" and was "a direct continuation of the Palestinian recalcitrance to promote negotiations."

Israel's chief negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, said they had proposed a "creative solution" on Tuesday that would enable extending talks.

She said Israel was only "suspending" talks and "the door has not been shut today", stressing the punitive sanctions planned were "measured" and "would not collapse the PA," the Palestinian Authority.

But Erakat blamed Israel for the talks' collapse, telling AFP: "Netanyahu's government has been asked for years to choose between peace and settlements and it chose settlements."

He said the Palestinian leadership would "look into all options to respond to Israeli government decisions against the PA."

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said in a statement the league "fully supports Palestinian president Abbas in facing all the pressures applied on him by Israel."

US envoy Martin Indyk has repeatedly met both sides to try to salvage the negotiations, and was to meet Abbas in Ramallah later Thursday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was also set to talk to Abbas by phone after Washington said it was "disappointed" by the Palestinian deal.

Abbas says he will not extend the negotiations unless Israel agrees to freeze all settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and frees Arab prisoners earmarked for release this month.

He has also demanded an immediate start to negotiations on the future borders of the Palestinians' promised state.

'Palestinian conditions unacceptable'

Israel has dismissed all three conditions as unacceptable.

Jibril Rajub, a Fatah leader, told AFP that "the next national consensus government will proclaim loud and clear that it accepts the Quartet's conditions."

The Middle East Quartet demands that Hamas recognize Israel and existing agreements between it and the PLO, and renounce armed struggle.

Hamas leaders, however, have in the past said that they would accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, but would not explicitly recognize Israel.

Washington warned Wednesday that the Palestinian deal threatened to scupper any chance of rescuing the talks.

"It's hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Abbas's writ has effectively been confined to autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank since Hamas evicted his loyalists from Gaza in 2007.

Hamas agreed to the formation of a joint administration under his leadership within five weeks.

Similar past agreements have been reached but not implemented.

When Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, the European Union and the United States said they would deal with a government in which it participated only if it renounced violence and recognized Israel and past peace deals.

The EU on Thursday welcomed the unity accord, but said its "top priority is that the current talks continue beyond April 29."

Meanwhile in Gaza, Palestinian militants detonated an explosive device along the border fence, Israel's military said, adding: "Forces at the scene responded towards suspicious targets."

The bombing came a day after Israel bombed the Gaza Strip, injuring twelve Palestinians, in an attack that Israel's military admitted had not hits its target.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
1 ) Colin / US
24/04/2014 11:19
This is exactly the same b***s**t we hear from Israel time and time again. Any idiot can see that peace is never a option for Israel because all the free financial aid being snatched out of American mouths to prop up the Israeli military will stop. The Israelis are popping the champagne in secret. Hamas and fatah need to join and unite against the illegal occupying European theives calling themselves Israelis when that are nothing but Germans and that is a FACT!

2 ) Mo / UK
24/04/2014 11:42
"It's hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Why not, when Palestinians are expected to negotiate with a Israel that does not believe in the Palestinians right to exist in their own land of Palestine. Yet another example of USA’s racism towards the Palestinians.

3 ) Ajibola Hasan / Nigeria
24/04/2014 14:05
The best way for Palestinians to gain her independence, lastly peace, self control and sovereign is to have a solid truce between Hamas and Fatah. Israel using the division of Palestinians faction to operate coward against the people of palestinians.

4 ) Brandy / Usa2
24/04/2014 16:26
Oops, looks like 'toys and pram' time. The Palestinians have now shown they are serious about peace. Israel with or without US support need to take that on board & think about coming to the table and continuing negotiations. The Palestinians can now also consider thinking about how & who is to take negotiations forward. They might suggest a topic by topic approach with specialist negotiators for each bit, or a cross section of negotiators (of their choosing) to stay the whole course. Happy days.

5 ) Mel / USA
24/04/2014 17:13
Zionism is so delusional!If it wasn't for Zionism's VIOLENCE &racism,you could actually laugh.But it's a SICK,deluded humor that polarizers everyone who DOES believe in real,equitable,mutual,civilized peace.Not the false(autocratic control)shackled"peace"that Zionism wants!"By tying itself to(Israel,the PA)is turning its back on"both Muslim &Christian Palestine,not to mention JEWSwho want a pluralistic life in Near Eastern,multicultural,Palestine.Even old-colonials are sick of Israeli fascism!

6 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
24/04/2014 19:08
Colin - we don't need the military aid. Are you that daft that you don't realize that most of it goes to prop up the US military-industrial complex? And if you're that upset, what about the billions of your tax money that goes to weapons for Arab countries??? Man are you narrow.

7 ) Mel / USA
24/04/2014 22:38
#6:"we don't need the military aid."Agh !Au contraire Brain,yes you do!2/3rds of USFMF to Israel(illegally)doesn't go to weapons.They come from loan guarantees(interest free that Israel never has to pay back).The bulk of $3 BILL.p.a. US taxes go to subsidize YOUR home,air-raid shelter,bills,on Jews-only colonies on occupied PLURALISTIC Palestinian land.US taxes build apartheid colonies,roads,outposts,Yeshiva's & pay BRIBES to PA/SF.W/out our expropriated US taxes,Palestine would NOT be occupied!

8 ) Muzhik / USA
24/04/2014 22:47
I would not worry so much about the US or even Israel. Worry about Teheran. They provide weapons to Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. This agreement will allow them to arm groups in the PA. When the PA unilaterally declares itself to be a country, Teheran will trigger a crisis that causes a war. When Israel has destroyed/conquered Hamas, Hezbollah, etc, Teheran can unify opposition and fill the void.

9 ) ABE / USA
25/04/2014 00:45
Bottom line....PALESTINIAN UNITY IS A MYTH!! It won't work!!!

10 ) aa / palestine
25/04/2014 01:04
Now we understand why the Palestinians could not reconcile before: Israel and US prevented it through blackmail! Now they simply pushed it too far, leaving no option for Palestinian politicians to save their national dignity. The people have to understand who is their common enemy and find a way to develop a joint strategy to save their lives

11 ) Tobias / USA
25/04/2014 01:49
The situation of PLO politics and lying is almost a joke, where: - After several years of the PLO essentially refusing to talk, unless Israel surrenders to their pre-condition demands, - Now the PLO condemns an Israeli decision to end talks, after the PLO merges with Hamas, a group committed to destroying Israel.
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