“Politics are for the PLO, which means [it’s] for me, and the government will work according to my policy,” Abbas said, speaking in English.
The Hamas-Fatah understanding calls for the establishment of a transitional government of politically independent technocrats to prepare for elections in a year.
Abbas responded to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who declared shortly before the factional accord was announced that the Palestinian Authority had to choose between “peace with Israel or peace with Hamas.”
“Hamas are a part of the Palestinian people, like or dislike. I cannot exclude them,” Abbas said. “You, Mr. Netanyahu, are our partner. We cannot neglect you. So we have to take both, and not to choose between this and that. But please, Mr. Netanyahu, you have to choose between settlement activities and peace.”
Peace negotiations relaunched in September broke off in a dispute over continued Israeli settlement building in the West Bank. The Palestinians insist that there can be no talks unless the construction is halted, while Netanyahu has agreed only to a temporary freeze and demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, a move they reject.
Breaking the impasse could become more difficult with the signing of the agreement between Fatah and Hamas, a group both Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organization. The White House said Wednesday that any new Palestinian government would have to recognize Israel, respect previous accords and renounce violence, conditions that Hamas has refused. The demands have been adopted by the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators that includes the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke Fulton said Thursday that the United States was continuing its assistance programs to the Palestinian government for now, while seeking more information on the emerging alliance.
“If a new Palestinian government is formed, we will assess it based on its policies at that time and will determine the implications for our assistance based on U.S. law,” she told the Associated Press.
In contrast with Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak appeared to leave some room for maneuvering, telling Israel Radio on Thursday that if a new Palestinian government is formed, Israel should issue “a clear statement, coordinated between us and the Americans, that we will have discussions with such a government if, and only if, it accepts the conditions set by the Quartet.”