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Israel PM: Palestinian reconciliation deal abandons 'way of peace'

Thaer Ghanaim / PPO via Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, right, sit on either side of Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani as they sign an agreement in Doha on Monday.

Updated at 8:05 a.m. ET: JERUSALEM -- Israel's prime minister says it will be impossible to hold peace talks if the Palestinians go through with a new reconciliation deal, The Associated Press is reporting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has chosen to "abandon the way of peace" by reaching a power-sharing deal with the Hamas militant group, according to the AP.

The leaders of rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed a deal in Qatar on Monday to form a unity government of independent technocrats for the West Bank and Gaza, headed by Abbas.

Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group. In a statement Monday, Netanyahu said: "It is either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel. You can't have them both."

Original post: DOHA, Qatar -- The main Palestinian political rivals took a major step Monday toward healing their bitter rift, agreeing that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would head an interim unity government to prepare for general elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

The agreement, brokered by Qatar, was signed by Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, chief of the Islamic militant Hamas.

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A senior Palestinian official told Reuters that under Monday's agreement, Abbas would assume the role of prime minister.

Both leaders said they are serious about moving forward.

"We promise our people to implement this agreement as soon as possible," said Abbas, who is head of the secular Fatah organization.

"We inform our people that we are serious about healing the wounds ... to reunite our people on the foundation of a political partnership, in order to devote our effort to resisting the (Israeli) occupation," Mashaal added.

The two had reached a reconciliation deal last year to end more than four years of separate governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but disagreement over who was to head an interim government had delayed implementation. Hamas, which runs Gaza, had strongly opposed Abbas' initial choice of Salam Fayyad, the head of his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Fatah and Hamas have been bitter rivals since the Islamist movement seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after a brief war and kicked out Abbas' Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

It remains unclear whether the interim government would be acceptable to the West. The United States, Europe and Israel consider Hamas a terror organization, and said they would shun any government that includes members of an unreformed Hamas.

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Abbas has international backing and Monday's agreement said all Cabinet ministers would be politically independent technocrats.

With the Palestinians moving toward unity, the fate of low-level border talks with Israel also remains uncertain. Abbas has said that the talks have run their course, as far as he is concerned, and that he would only resume them if Israel made a better offer on where to draw the border with a Palestinian state. It is not clear whether Israel would negotiate with Abbas as head of a Palestinian unity government.

As part of reconciliation, elections were initially set for May. However, the delays in implementation make it unlikely the vote will be held on time.

The last presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 2006. Hamas won the parliamentary vote.

The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority supports a negotiated peace with Israel that would give Palestinians an independent state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Gaza, co-existing with the Jewish state. Hamas is officially sworn to the destruction of Israel but is open to an indefinite ceasefire.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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