Palestinian unity pact a blow to peace: Israeli PM

LONDON Wed May 4, 2011 12:26pm EDT

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the official ceremony opening Holocaust Remembrance Day, at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the official ceremony opening Holocaust Remembrance Day, at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem May 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

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LONDON (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned a Palestinian unity pact on Wednesday as a "tremendous blow to peace."

Netanyahu spoke during a visit to London as a ceremony was held in Egypt ending a four-year rift between the Palestinians' Fatah movement, which backs negotiated peace with Israel, and Islamist Hamas, whose founding charter calls for the Jewish state's destruction.

"What happened today in Cairo is a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism," Netanyahu told reporters.

Terrorism had been dealt a resounding defeat this week with the killing by U.S. forces of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Netanyahu said.

But he said terrorism recovered on Wednesday because Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had embraced Hamas, which condemned the U.S. killing of bin Laden and praised bin Laden as a martyr.

Netanyahu had struck a deal with an organization that was committed to Israel's destruction and fired rockets at Israeli cities.

"What we hope will happen is that we find peace and the only way we can make peace is with our neighbors who want peace. Those who want to eliminate us, those who practice terror against us, are not partners for peace," said Netanyahu, due to hold talks shortly with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron himself gave the agreement a cautious welcome.

"We need to study the detail of the agreement but as the prime minister made clear in the House of Commons yesterday we hope that Palestinian unity between Fatah and Hamas will be a step forward," Cameron's spokeswoman said.

"Clearly we will judge any Palestinian government on its actions. We want the Palestinian government if it emerges to reject violence and engage in a meaningful peace process."

Hamas condemned on Monday the killing of bin Laden as the assassination of an Arab holy warrior, differing sharply with Abbas's Western-backed Palestinian Authority which welcomed the death in Pakistan of the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

Palestinians see a reconciliation between the secular Fatah and Islamist Hamas as crucial for their drive for an independent state in territories Israel captured in a 1967 war.

Hamas has stated before that it would accept as an interim solution a state in all of the territory Israel occupied, along with a long-term ceasefire.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft, Stefano Ambrogi and Keith Weir; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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