JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinians will continue to negotiate peace with Israel despite a unity agreement with the terrorist Hamas organization, Mahmoud Abbas said.
Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, told reporters Thursday that the Palestine Liberation Organization that he heads will continue to be responsible for handling negotiations, Haaretz reported. Hamas is not a member of the PLO.
Abbas’ comments came a day after his Fatah movement and Hamas, which controls Gaza, announced that they had reconciled, following a meeting in Cairo.
Abbas has not yet announced the composition of his "unity cabinet." An official unity agreement ceremony is scheduled to be held in Cairo next week.
The new unity government "Has nothing to do with politics," Abbas said.
Israel has said that it will not negotiate with Hamas.
Top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said Thursday that his organization will not participate in peace talks with Israel, Ynet reported.
Al-Zahar said it will not stop its partners from talking to Israel, saying "if Fatah wants to negotiate with Israel over trivialities, they can."
In a statement issued after the announcement Wednesday of the unity agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the reconciliation "shows the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and causes one to wonder if Hamas will seize control of Judea and Samaria like it seized control of the Gaza Strip."
"The Palestinian Authority needs to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas," Netanyahu said.