Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed "deep disappointment" at Israel's decision Thursday to halt peace talks and sanction the PA in response to the unity deal signed between Fatah and Hamas on Wednesday.

"Binyamin Netanyahu and his government used the split between the Palestinian factions as an excuse to reject a peace agreement in the past. Today, they are using Palestinian reconciliation as an excuse for the same thing," Erekat said.

"The only logical explanation is that the Netanyahu government does not want peace," he added.

The PLO official said that "the Gaza Strip's 1.7 million residents, together with those of east Jerusalem and the West Bank, make up the state of Palestine. Today we took an important step in serving our people."

Erekat added that "over the past nine months, the Netanyahu government has increased construction in the settlements, the destruction of [Palestinian] homes, the killing, the arrests and the military raids."

The Palestinian negotiator criticized Netanyahu for "refusing to present for us a map showing where the borders of Israel are. Likewise, Israel refused to recognize the right of our people to live within the 1967 borders, despite the fact that the PLO recognized Israel 26 years ago."

Erekat said in response to Netanyahu's contention that the Palestinian Authority must choose between peace with Hamas or peace with Israel, that the real question is, "the continuation of settlements, colonialism and apartheid, or two sovereign democratic states living side by side in peace on the 1967 borders."

"You chose the first option, and we chose the second," he said.

Erekat said that the reconciliation deal with Hamas was "a necessary step in achieving peace and justice."






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