JERUSALEM (JTA) – Major Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a unified government for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The agreement, signed Monday in Qatar, stipulates that the government will be headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads the Fatah Party, which controls the West Bank.
The Islamist Hamas has run Gaza since it took it over in 2007 after a war with its Fatah rivals. Since then, Israel has imposed a blockade on the coastal strip.
The agreement comes nearly a year after Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement in Cairo to create an interim government and hold elections within a year.
"We are serious, both Fatah and Hamas, in healing the wounds and ending the chapter of division and reinforcing and accomplishing reconciliation," Hamas head Khaled Meshaal said in an address carried live on Al Jazeera.
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. It has refused to recognize Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday afternoon in a statement that "It is either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel; you cannot have it both ways."
"Hamas is a terrorist organization that strives to destroy Israel, and which is supported by Iran," Netanyahu said. "I have said many times in the past that the Palestinian Authority must choose between an alliance with Hamas and peace with Israel. Hamas and peace do not go together."