Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to step away from a unity deal with the Islamist group Hamas
a day before it was due to be officially signed in a ceremony in Cairo. On Tuesday it was announced that the deal itself had already been inked, and the scheduled Egyptian event would merely be ceremonial. RELATED:
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Nevertheless, following a meeting with Quartet envoy Tony Blair, Netanyahu released a statement imploring the Fatah head to reconsider. "I call on Abu Mazen (Abbas) to cancel the agreement with Hamas immediately and to choose the way of peace with Israel," Netanyahu said.
Fatah responded to Netanyahu's calls for a cancellation of the unity deal, saying this is an "unacceptable interference," AFP reported.
Netanyahu "must respect the will of the Palestinian people and stop the unacceptable interference in internal Palestinian affairs," AFP quoted Azzam al-Ahmed, the head of the Fatah delegation in Cairo, as saying.
Israel has said the surprise deal announced last week, which is meant to reconcile the two rival Palestinian factions of Hamas and Fatah, will sabotage peace efforts. Most recently, it has pointed to Hamas's condemnation of the killing of Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by US forces as reason for concern.
"The agreement between Abu Mazen and Hamas deals
a tough blow to the peace process. How can peace be reached with a
government in which half of it calls to destroy Israel and even praises
mass-murderer Osama bin Laden?" Netanyahu said.
Palestinian leaders have defended the unity agreement, saying
reconciliation with Hamas reflects a deep-seated public desire to end
Hamas officials were quoted as saying that the Islamist group would
honor an unofficial truce with Israel after signing the unity deal with
The deal has been signed by several smaller Palestinian factions in addition to Hamas and Fatah.
Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas spokesman, said all Palestinian factions and independent Palestinian politicians met in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss the agreement brokered by Egypt last week.
"All the factions signed today (Tuesday), and tomorrow we will celebrate the reconciliation under Egyptian patronage and in the presence of (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas and (Hamas leader) Khaled Meshaal," he told Reuters.
Another Palestinian official, who declined to be identified, said the smaller factions had inked the deal to show their backing for reconciliation but said the ceremonial signing would take place on Wednesday between the two biggest factions.
"Fatah and Hamas will sign with full names tomorrow in a signing ceremony celebrated by all," the official said.
Fatah leader Abbas was expected to speak at the ceremony.
Diplomats said foreign and Arab dignitaries, including European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, were invited to the ceremony.
An EU spokeswoman in Cairo said Ashton was invited but said the mission could not confirm that she would attend.
The interim government, which Palestinian officials said would consist of independent technocrats with no affiliation to either faction, will prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections within a year.
Egypt has said it will help oversee the implementation of the accord.