Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu slammed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday for speaking in Cairo with Hamas's leaders andÂ trying to push forward Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.
"Abu Mazen [Abbas] is embracing the head of a terrorist organization that just last month said Israel needed to be wiped off the map," Netanyahu said. "This is not the way someone behaves who is interested in peace."
This is the second day in a row thatÂ Netanyahu has related to the talks, saying on Wednesday that Abbas was considering unity with an organization that "wants to destroy Israel, and fired rockets on our cities. We know that any territory we evacuate will be taken over by Hamas and Iran. We won't let that happen."
Tzipi Livni, head of the new party bearing her name, issued a response to Netanyahu's Thursday statement, saying that instead of "reprimanding Abu Mazen in order to convince the Israeli public on the eve of elections that there is no hope for peace, Israel should justifiably demand that any internal Palestinian arrangement include recognition of Israel and an end to violence and terrorism."
Livni, when she was foreign minister, was instrumental in getting the Quartet to set three conditions for engagement with Hamas: recognition of Israel, forswearing of terrorism and acceptance of previous Israel-Palestinian agreements.
One government official said Netanyahu's comments about the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation efforts reflected concern in Jerusalem that â€“ although a long shot â€“ such moves could bear fruit.
"We are trying to draw a line in the sand and let it be known that this is unacceptable," he said. "You can't profess to want peace, yet at the same time embrace people who want to wipe us off the map."
Asked whether Israel was trying to convince third parties â€“ such as the US and some European countries â€“ to use their leverage to dissuade the Palestinians from the move, the official said, "Our position on this matter is well known."
If Hamas and Fatah do reconcile, the official said that such a scenario "changes the constellation in a negative way, and will have consequences on the way we deal with Abbas."
While the official would not elaborate on what steps Israel would take in return, he said that in 2006, after Hamas won the elections in the PA, Israel cut off all economic cooperation, including the monthly transfer of duties collected on the PA's behalf.