JERUSALEM (Agencies-24/3/2008) – A senior Israeli official today warned Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas against striking a reconciliation deal with Hamas, saying it would effectively sink faltering Middle East peace talks.
"Mahmud Abbas must decide whether he wants to continue negotiations with Israel or if he wants to renew an alliance with Hamas, as he cannot have both at the same time," the official told an AFP reporter, on condition of anonymity.
The sentiment was echoed by other unnamed Israeli officials cited by both army and public radio in their morning news reports. The statements came a day after Abbas’s Fatah signed an agreement with Hamas in Sanaa to open first direct talks between the two bitter rivals since the Islamists bloody seizure of the Gaza Strip nine months ago.
"The two movements Hamas and Fatah have agreed to accept the Yemeni initiative as a framework for dialogue between the two movements and a return of the Palestinian situation to what it was before the events in Gaza," the declaration said.
But within hours of signing the agreement, the two bitter rivals bickered over its meaning, with Hamas focusing on the first part of the statement while Fatah highlighted the second as a precondition for any talks.
The Hamas seizure of Gaza effectively split the Palestinian territories into two separate entities with the Islamists controlling the impoverished coastal strip and Abbas ruling the occupied West Bank.
Israel considers Hamas; the Islamic Resistance Movement pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state, a terror group and refuses to have any direct dealings with it.
Israel and Abbas renewed peace negotiations in late November under US auspices, but the talks have made little progress since