Israel's forum of seven senior ministers formally decided Thursday not to hold peace talks with the Palestinian Authority in light of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation announced in Cairo on Wednesday.
"If the situation changes and Hamas alters its ways and recognizes Israel, then we'll see," a senior political source was quoted as saying. "In the meantime there will be no talks or negotiations with the Palestinians until the picture becomes clearer."
PA president Mahmoud Abbas has blithely insisted the PA will negotiate with Israel despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's outrage over the Fatah-Hamas deal.
"It's either peace with us or peace with Hamas," Netanyahu said, issuing an ultimatum to the PA through the media on Wednesday.
But Abbas dismissed Netanyahu's stand on Thursday.
"The new government [with Hamas] and the peace talks are two different things," he said.
Senior Israeli officials aren't impressed with Abbas' sudden about-face on talks, however, and accuse the PA chairman of posturing.
"We put out a very strong statement yesterday," Mark Regev, Netanyahu's spokesperson, told Israel National News. "We stand by that statement. It says everything it needs to say. It is perfectly clear."
"This is obviously nonsensical," a foreign ministry official told INN on condition of anonymity. "Abbas has refused to sit down with Israel for two years. He could have sat down with Israel, but instead chose to sit down with Hamas."
"He's chosen his path," the official concluded. "Hamas has a genocidal agenda and wants to wipe Israel off the map. Abbas is obviously aware of how the international community will see this and is trying stave off criticism."
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who has been highly critical of the Netanyahu government for not doing more to jump-start the long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the PA over the past two years, expressed doubt over talking with the PA now that Hamas is being returned to the fold.
"It is still unclear what the terms of this agreement will be,” she told reporters. “But the test of the Palestinian government will be the acceptance of the international community's conditions. A Palestinian government will have to accept the Quartet's conditions if it intends to keep peace with Israel."
The Quarter's conditions for admittance of Hamas to the PA government are the renunciation of terrorism, formal recognition of Israel's right to exist, and upholding previous agreements between Israel and the PA.
Hamas has rejected all three criteria.