By Associated Press, Updated: Thursday, April 24,
JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli government on Thursday cut off Mideast peace talks and threatened to impose new sanctions against the Palestinians in response to a unity agreement between rival Palestinian factions, pushing an embattled U.S. peace initiative to the brink of collapse.
Israel's Security Cabinet made the decision during a marathon emergency meeting convened to discuss the new Palestinian deal. The rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah announced a reconciliation plan meant to end a seven-year rift on Wednesday.
Israel objects to any participation in Palestinian politics by Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel's destruction. The group has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks over the past two decades.
In a statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, the government said it would not hold negotiations with a government that "leans on Hamas."
"Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen made a pact with a murderous terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel," it said, using Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' nickname. "The alliance between Abu Mazen and Hamas was signed while Israel was making efforts to promote negotiations with the Palestinians. ... He who chooses Hamas' terror does not want peace."