JERUSALEM, April 27 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
said on Wednesday Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
could not hope to forge a peace deal with Israel if he pursued a reconciliation accord with the Islamist group Hamas.
The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both, Netanyahu said after the two Palestinian groups announced they had overcome past differences.
Netanyahu is expected to address a joint meeting of the US Congress during a visit to Washington next month where he plans to outline his plan to re-start frozen peace talks with Abbas's Palestinian Authority that controls the occupied West Bank.
Talks opened last September with the aim of an accord in one year, but quickly broke down after Netanyahu refused to extend a partial freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.
But top Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdaineh said the reconciliation did not concern Israel.
The agreement between Fatah and Hamas movements is an internal affair and has nothing to do with Israel. Netanyahu must choose between a just peace with the united Palestinian people ... and settlements, Abu Rdaineh said.
In his televised statement, Netanyahu said Israel could not accept Hamas as a negotiating partner because it aspires to destroy Israel, it says so publicly, it fires rockets on our cities, it fires anti-tank rockets on our children.
He said the surprise announcement of a reconciliation deal exposes the Palestinian Authority's weakness and raises questions whether Hamas will take hold of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) as it took hold of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip in a brief, bloody civil war in 2007 when it ousted Abbas's administration. Abbas's more secular Fatah faction controls the West Bank.
Netanyahu added in his Hebrew statement that it was up to Abbas's administration to decide its upcoming steps.
I hope that the Palestinian Authority will make the correct decision, that it will choose peace with Israel. The choice is in its hands, he said.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Crispian Balmer)