Netanyahu: Hamas-Fatah Unity Pact Is a Victory for Terrorism

Premier calls reconciliation of rival Palestinian faction a 'mortal blow to peace'; outgoing Shin Bet chief Diskin: Fear of unity deal is blown out of proportion.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday condemned a new unity pact between the Hamas and Fatah Palestinian factions.

"What happened today in Cairo is a mortal blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism," he told reporters during a visit to London.

Leaders of the warring Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas met in Cairo on Wednesday to sign a reconciliation agreement that ends four years of bitter strife. Israel has condemned the reconciliation, calling on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas, who "aspires to destroy Israel."

Netanyahu - Reuters - May 1, 2011

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said at Wednesday's ceremony that the Islamist group wanted to establish an independent, sovereign Palestinian state on land of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jerusalem as its capital.

"Hamas was ready to pay any price for internal Palestinian reconciliation," Meshaal continued. "The only battle of the Palestinians is against Israel."

"Our aim is to establish a free and completely sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, whose capital is Jerusalem, without any settlers and without giving up a single inch of land and without giving up on the right of return (of Palestinian refugees)," Meshaal said.

Netanyahu's concern regarding the deal was not shared by all senior officials in Israel. Outgoing Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said Wednesday that reactions to the reconciliation between have been blown out of proportion.

"There have been attempts at reconciliation for a long time, as has the blame game between Fatah and Hamas, with each side blaming the other for the failure of the deal," Diskin told reporters in Tel Aviv, though he refused to answer questions pertaining to the severity of politicians' warnings regarding the deal.

Hamas accepted the current deal with Fatah following years of rejection, Diskin said, adding that the group had taken a "tactical, not a strategic, move" in agreeing to Fatah's draft.

Diskin attributed Hamas' change of heart to concern in the wake of developments in the region - particularly the potential collapse of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

The leaders of Hanas are trapped between their support of Assad and calls by Sunni clerics to overthrow the regime, Diskin clarified, adding that the Islamist movement is keen on improving its relations with Egypt and its new government.

The Fatah-Hamas deal is rife with clauses that may be difficult to implement, Diskin said, "In the years to come I expect to see a real reconciliation on the ground. For this to happen, there must be joint security mechanisms: Hamas representation in the West Bank, and Fatah representation in the Gaza Strip," he said.