JERUSALEM: Moves by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to seal reconciliation with Hamas drew an angry response in Israel on Friday, with one government minister even calling for the annexation of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
After talks with Abbas in Cairo on Thursday that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told AFP were held in an "excellent atmosphere," the two men agreed on a process that would pave the way for the Islamist group to join a reformed Palestine Liberation Organization and for long delayed Palestinian elections.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said the deal with the Islamist rulers of Gaza was proof that the Palestinian president was not interested in peace.
"Hamas is not a political movement that resorts to terrorism but a group whose whole vocation is terrorism," Regev told AFP.
"The closer President Abbas moves to Hamas, the further he moves away from peace."
Transport Minister Israel Katz, a hardliner from Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, said Israel should respond by unilaterally annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank as it did Arab east Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights.
"Israel must impose its sovereignty on all Jewish districts of Judaea and Samaria (the West Bank)," Katz told public radio.
"Israel must also make preparations to ensure the safety of its citizens in the face of this terrorist organization backed by Iran," he added.
"Finally, we need to take the necessary steps to ensure that the Jewish population (of the West Bank) has ready access to all corners of the state of Israel.
"This alarming rapprochement between Abu Mazen (Abbas) and Hamas is aimed at forming a government that one can only say is aimed at bringing about a genocide," he charged.
"Since the dark days of Nazism, no other movement has set as its aim the killing of Jews."
Israel has expressed mounting alarm as Abbas’s secular Fatah faction has intensified efforts to reconcile with Hamas in recent weeks.
Abbas and Meshaal have met three times in the past month to thrash out implementation of a surprise deal they signed in May.
The two factions had previously been at loggerheads ever since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, leaving the Palestinian territories with rival administrations.