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Israel formally suspends talks with Palestinians

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel formally suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority over the P.A.’s national unity accord signed with the Hamas authority in the Gaza Strip.

“The Cabinet today unanimously decided that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction,” said a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released Thursday afternoon.

“In addition, Israel will respond to unilateral Palestinian action with a series of measures,” it said, without outlining the measures. In the past, responses have included accelerated settlement building and suspending tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority.

The Fatah party, led by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, on Wednesday signed an agreement with Hamas that would lead to a unity government within five weeks.

Previous Hamas-Fatah accords have collapsed – in 2007, into a civil war.

Also Wednesday, the Obama administration warned that the accord with Hamas, designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union, could scuttle attempts to revive the peace talks.

The Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed earlier this month after Israel failed to meet a March 29 deadline to release the final 26 of 104 Palestinian prisoners it had pledged to release when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reconvened talks last July. Abbas in turn applied to join 15 international conventions in violation of his agreement not to do so as long as talks were underway.

Netanyahu said in his statement that Israel, at the behest of Kerry, was attempting to restart the talks when Hamas and Fatah signed the accord.

“Abu Mazen has formed an alliance with an organization whose covenant calls for Muslims to fight and kill Jews,” Netanyahu said of Abbas. “Hamas has fired more than 10,000 missiles and rockets at Israeli territory and has not halted terrorist actions against Israel even for a minute.”

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