PM Slams Deal to Form Unity Cabinet Headed by Abbas

'Palestinian Authority must choose between an alliance with Hamas and peace with Israel. Hamas and peace don't go together,' Netanyahu says at Likud meeting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the agreement reached between Hamas and Fatah on Monday to form a caretaker unity cabinet headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"Hamas is a terrorist organization that strives to destroy Israel and relies on support from Iran," Netanyahu said at a Likud meeting. "I have said many times in the past the Palestinian Authority must choose between an alliance with Hamas and peace with Israel. Hamas and peace don't go together."

Abbas Meshal - AP - 07022012

If Abbas implements the Doha pact with Hamas, Netanyahu added, then "he is choosing to abandon the path of peace and to choose Hamas... You cannot have it both ways."

Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshal said in a joint announcement Monday the unity cabinet could pave the way for a long-sought-after reconciliation between the rival factions.

"We are serious, both Fatah and Hamas, in healing the wounds and ending the chapter of division and reinforcing and accomplishing reconciliation," Meshal said in remarks televised live by Al Jazeera from Qatar.

The accord signed by Abbas and Meshal is supposed to pave the way for Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections possibly later this year, and to rebuild the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip following Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-2009.

Abbas promised the agreement will be implemented in the shortest time possible.

A Palestinian source speaking with Haaretz indicated both parties were considering the option of naming Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as Abbas' deputies.

The Doha agreement stipulates the caretaker cabinet will be comprised of non-affiliated technocrats, and its mission will be to start Gaza's rehabilitation and prepare for a general Palestinian election for both president and parliament.

It is not clear whether the agreement will be implemented, due in part to objections within both organizations.

Haniyeh and the Hamas leadership in Gaza are not happy with the agreement, since it involves giving up their power in the caretaker cabinet until the elections, Palestinian sources said. Moreover, free democratic elections could spell the end of Hamas' reign in the Gaza Strip.

Israel will have difficulty keeping the Palestinians from forming the caretaker government, since it will be headed by Abbas and will not consist of Hamas members, Israeli sources said.

The Palestinians are due to announce an election date shortly, at which point Israel will have to decide whether to enable elections with Hamas' participation.

Israel will also have to decide whether to allow Hamas to take part in elections in East Jerusalem, or prevent it from doing so at the risk of angering the international community.