Jerusalem: In a dramatic development, Israel today suspended peace talks with the Palestinians in the wake of a unity deal between Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and Islamist Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip since June 2007.
Following a seven hour marathon meeting of Israel`s top decision making body, the Jewish state also threatened to take unspecified steps against the unilateral moves of the Palestinian leadership.
"Israel`s security cabinet unanimously decided that the Israeli government will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terror organisation that calls for the destruction of Israel," a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s office said.
"In addition, Israel will take a number of measures in response to the PA`s unilateral moves," the statement added in reference to Palestinian leadership`s decision to move to various international bodies seeking recognition.
"Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen [nom de guerre for PA President Mahmoud Abbas] formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organisation that calls for Israel`s destruction," Netanyahu said.
"Abu Mazen formed an alliance with an organisation whose covenant calls for Muslims to wage Jihad against Jews," the Israeli Premier stressed.
He pointed out that Hamas has fired more than 10,000 missiles and rockets on Israel, and has never stopped "for a minute" its terrorist actions against Israel.
Pointing out that the new Fatah-Hamas pact was signed even as efforts were being made to keep the negotiations going, Netanyahu said this was a direct continuation of the Palestinian refusal to move forward on the current peace track being mediated bu the US.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), internationally recognised as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement on Wednesday ending nearly seven years of hostility.
Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since June 2007 after overthrowing the West recognised PA in a bloody pitched battle despite a crippling embargo by Israel and the Western powers.
Under the reconciliation deal, which came as the US mediated peace talks were at a standstill, the sides agreed to form a "national consensus" government under Abbas, who rules the West Bank, within weeks.
Netanyahu charged that the unity deal 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."
Abbas "rejected the principles of the framework (to extend peace talks) proposed by the US, and refused to even discuss recognising Israel as the Jewish State," he argued.
"Whoever chooses the Hamas terror does not want peace," the Israeli Premier emphasised.
Meanwhile, a PLO official has emphasised that the "historic" reconciliation deal signed between rival Hamas and Fatah is based on Abbas` terms and includes working towards a two-state solution that recognises Israel`s existence.
Fatah strongman and a senior PLO official, Jibril Rajoub, told Army Radio today that Islamist Hamas will implement Abbas` policies under the deal and that the PA leadership will continue working towards a two state solution.
Hamas` charter vows to the destruction of Israel and the Western countries have made Hamas` recognition of the Jewish state a pre-condition for having any talks with the faction.
"We weren`t willing to sign the reconciliation agreement without it being clear to all factions that we are driving forward our nation to a two-state solution,"?Rajoub said.
He also expressed hopes that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is still possible.
"I hope that Israel will allow Abbas to continue peace negotiations, on the basis of two states for two peoples," the PLO official added.
He also stressed that the reconciliation agreement is an internal Palestinian matter.
"We don`t want to ruin negotiations completely. I hope Israel will allow Abbas to continue talks as well as stand up to the challenge of settlements on Palestinian land," he said.
Meanwhile, the reconciliation deal between the two factions also creates dilemma for the United States and European countries which provide financial aid to the PA.
A Hamas-led government after the 2006 Palestinian elections was shunned by Israel and the West because the Islamic faction refused to recognise Israel and honour earlier treaties signed by the PLO.
This time they would face the difficult choice of whether to recognise a PA-led by Abbas but with Hamas, seen as a terror organisation by the West, as a part of it.
Analysts here believe that?Hamas` economic and political distress,?its empty coffers, Egypt?s blockade of Gaza, weakening ties with Iran and the pressure inside Gaza led to the faction making major concessions that facilitated the reconciliation deal.