Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told NBC News on Thursday that Israel was calling off peace talks with the Palestinians.
Israel was infuriated after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to form a unity government with Hamas, which is considered by the West and Israel to be a terrorist group. Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks.
“What has happened is a great reverse for peace,” Netanyahu said.
The announcement appeared to end a nine-month push for a peace deal by Secretary of State John Kerry. He persuaded the two sides last summer to start talking again after five years.
The State Department was not ready to say that the talks were dead.
“There’s always a way forward,” Kerry told NBC News. “But the leaders have to make the compromises necessary to do that.”
Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said that both sides had taken “unhelpful steps” in recent months, and that “this process needs to work its way through.”
Psaki said that Kerry had spoken to Abbas to voice his disappointment. She said she expected he would speak to Netanyahu later in the day.
The deadline for a deal was April 29, but the two sides had tried to agree on an extension. Netanyahu did not rule out future talks, but he said that they hinge on a Palestinian leader and government “ready to pursue genuine negotiations.”
Saeb Erekat, the lead Palestinian peace negotiator, said that Palestinian reconciliation is an internal matter.
“Israel had no right to interfere in this issue,” he said, according to The Associated Press.
Netanyahu said that Abbas had made a deal with a group “committed to our destruction.”
“No go,” the prime minister said in an interview for the MSNBC program “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” “I think the pact with Hamas kills peace. If it moves forward, it means peace moves backward.”
“He can’t have it both ways,” Netanyahu said of Abbas. “He has to choose: Peace with Israel or a pact with Hamas.”
— Andrea Mitchell and Erin McClam