Peres: Palestinian Unity Deal Could Be Barrier to Statehood

President calls burgeoning Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement a 'fatal mistake,' saying he expected a future Palestinian vote to result in Hamas' rule of the West Bank.

President Shimon Peres commented on the burgeoning Palestinian reconciliation agreement on Thursday, saying he felt the deal was a mistake that could prevent the formation of an independent Palestinian state.

The rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas came to a historic agreement on Wednesday, when they announced a decision to reconcile and form an interim government ahead of elections, after a four-year feud. Both sides hailed the agreement as a chance to start a fresh page in their national history.

Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas Daniel Bar-On October, 2008
Daniel Bar-On

Referring to the expected Fatah-Hamas unity deal, President Shimon Peres said on Thursday that the world could not support the foundation of a country, when part of the regime of which is a "bona fide terrorist organization."

"The move, as it stands, is a fatal mistake," Peres said, adding that a future Palestinian election could lead to a "terror organization ruling both Gaza and Judea and Samaria and the triumph of Hamas' policies."

Referring to the possible consequences of "walking hand in hand with a terror organization," the president said the reported unity deal "would lead to a regression and prevent the formation of a Palestinian state."

Peres added that the meaning of such a shift would be "continued rocket fire, the continued killing of innocent people, and the continuation of Iran's intervention, which supports and funds regional terror."

"We would have liked to see the Palestinian people unite, but for peace," Peres said, adding that, instead, the expected unity deal was "leading to a clear rift: meaning two Palestinian camps, one that calls for peace and the other that calls for Israel's destruction."

Peres called out to the Palestinian leadership to "unite for peace instead of creating a façade of unity that would prevent you from moving in any direction. The choice is in all our hands and we mustn't miss the opportunity created to make peace in favor of incessant clashes."

Several top Israeli officials commented on the reported unity deal earlier Thursday, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak telling Israel Radio that Israel would agree to negotiate with a planned new Fatah-Hamas Palestinian government only if it renounces terror activities and recognizes Israel.

Barak admitted that he had believed there was a low probability of the rival Palestinian factions reconciling their long-standing differences, adding that he felt Palestinian officials were also skeptical about the reconciliation effort's chance of success.

Earlier Thursday, hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned that a reconciliation deal could result in a Hamas takeover of the currently PA-ruled West Bank.

Lieberman told Army Radio of his fears that Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, would eventually take over the Palestinian Authority-ruled West Bank as well, making use of Hamas activists freed by Fatah as part of the new agreement.

"One of the clauses of the agreement is the release of hundreds of Hamas prisoners from Palestinian jails, which would flood the West Bank with armed terrorists, and the IDF must prepare accordingly," Lieberman said.