Netanyahu slams Palestinian unity efforts 18Mar11 March 19, 2011

Ma’an News Agency  -  18 March 2011

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has slammed Palestinian unity efforts, saying national Palestinian reconciliation would be the end of the peace process with Israel.

In a CNN interview broadcast Thursday, Netanyahu compared Hamas to Al-Qaeda, and said the Palestinian Authority could not be “for peace with Israel and peace with Hamas that calls for our destruction.”

In the midst of mass youth protests demanding national unity in the West Bank and Gaza, President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday he would accept an invitation from Hamas leaders to go to Gaza and hold talks.

The president called on the Hamas government’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to make the necessary arrangements, adding that he would like to meet with representatives of all factions and leaders while in Gaza.

The bitter rivalry between Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has damaged the Palestinian national movement.

A coalition of youth organizations, the March 15 movement, started demonstrating Tuesday in Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem demanding an end to the division. Huge protests erupted a day earlier in Gaza City, where ongoing demonstrations have faced a brutal crackdown from Hamas forces.

Sources in Netanyahu’s office told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the prime minister would appeal to US and European leaders to thwart reconciliation efforts.

The Israeli government officials did not say whether Israel would respond to Palestinian unity with sanctions or by ceasing security cooperation with the PA. They told Haaretz that Netanyahu’s efforts would focus on diplomacy for now.

The UN however welcomed Abbas’ plan to hold talks with Hamas.

“I very much welcome this development and hope that President Abbas’ visit to Gaza will happen soon,” UN envoy Robert Serry said in a statement issued by his spokesman.

“I think it is very important that the leaders respond to the clear wish of the people to reunite. Unity is overdue and vital for Palestinian legitimate aspirations.”

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