US President Barack Obama said Friday that a decision by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas to seek unity with Hamas was “unhelpful” for the peace process.
In his first public comments on the issue since Israel halted peace talks with Palestinians on Thursday, Obama lamented the lack of political will to make “tough decisions” on either side.
But he said his administration would not give up on Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace push, despite the latest setbacks and Israel’s declaration that the Palestinian move had scuppered the American initiative.
Obama’s statements come a day after Israel halted all peace negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization after a major reconciliation deal was signed between the two major Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas.
The agreement would reintegrate Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, into the PLO, which currently controls the West Bank.
The move ends seven years of Palestinian political division, but Israeli authorities denounced the PLO for reconciling with Hamas, which it deems a terrorist group.
Israeli officials subsequently halted talks and said they would refuse to deal with any Palestinian government backed by Hamas.
PLO leaders have maintained, however, that any government that emerges from the deal will honor previous PLO commitments, including to the peace talks and recognition of Israel.
Although Hamas has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, it has said it would not explicitly recognize the state of Israel.
Israel, however, has never explicitly recognized the right to exist of a Palestinian state.