Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to continue final status negotiations with Israel.
Abbas, who also heads the PA's Fatah faction, said Thursday talks would continue despite a reconciliation deal reached with Hamas. The agreement is expected to lead to an interim government uniting the two rival factions.
PA unity and talks with Israel, said Abbas, are “two different matters.”
Earlier, a Hamas official told reporters that if and when the Gaza-based terrorist group re-joins the PA government, talks with Israel will stop.
Abbas also slammed comments made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said bluntly the PA would have to choose between “unity” and peace with Israel.
Netanyahu warned Abbas in a recorded video message on Wednesday, “You cannot have peace with both, because Hamas aspires to destroy the State of Israel... Hamas fires rockets at our cities and anti-tank missiles at our children... I hope the PA makes the right choice.”
“Hamas is part of the Palestinian nation,” responded Abbas a day later. “Israel is just a partner. We want to work with both.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added his own warning Thursday to Abbas against the merger, saying it would prove to be a danger to Israel.
The reconciliation deal involves freeing hundreds of Hamas terrorists from PA-Fatah jails in Judea and Samaria. Speaking on Voice of Israel state radio, the foreign minister said he believes Hamas will take over those areas after the PA elections planned for next year.