Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal Jeopardizes Peace Talks
JERUSALEM, Israel -- On Wednesday, Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian factions, announced a reconciliation deal and pledged to form a unity government within weeks.
The announcement shocked Washington, angered Israel and left the U.S.-sponsored talks in limbo after Israel cancelled a meeting with the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced the end of a seven-year feud with Fatah.
"We declare this good news: The end of the years of the division of our Palestinian people in their homeland and in the diaspora," Haniyeh said. "President [Mahmoud] Abbas will now begin consultations on forming an interim government within five weeks."
The announcement marked the possible end of a bitter struggle between the two groups. Hamas overthrew Fatah in a brutal takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Since then, Gaza has been under the grip of Hamas.
Many Palestinians welcomed the agreement.
While many cheered the deal, here in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas had to choose its peace partner, either Israel or Hamas, which the United States calls a terrorist organization.
"We're trying to re-launch the negotiations with the Palestinians. Every time we get to that point, Abu Mazen [referring to Abbas] stacks on additional conditions, which he knows that Israel cannot give," Netanyahu said.
"So instead of moving into peace with Israel, he's moving into peace with Hamas and he has to choose," he continued. "Does he want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel? You can have one, but not the other."
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood birthed Hamas. Its charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the formation of an Islamic Caliphate, or empire, in its place.
The agreement seriously complicates negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and creates a dilemma for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The State Department called the announcement "disappointing" and "troubling."
"It's hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist, so we will see," State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.
The State Department said Hamas would need to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and accept previously signed Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Kerry said he hoped the two sides would continue negotiations beyond next Tuesday's April 29 deadline, a deadline now in jeopardy.