Israel Suspends Peace Talks with Palestinians

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel formally cancelled its participation in U.S.-backed peace talks with the Palestinians on Thursday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev said the move followed a reconciliation pact between the Palestinian government's Fatah faction and Hamas.

"Following the decision by the Palestinian government to forge an alliance with Hamas, an organization that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, we have decided to suspend all the negotiations with the Palestinians," Regev said in a statement.

"They cannot say they are a peace partner if they are embracing the most violent and extreme enemies of peace," Regev said.

In the last few years Hamas has fired more than 10,000 rockets at Israel.

Regev said his country is calling on the Palestinian leadership to annul the "harmful agreement" with Hamas.

"If they do so, we will be ready to return to negotiations immediately," he added.

Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi blasted Israel's decision as a "pretext in order to scuttle the talks, in order to undermine the two-state solution."

She argued that the Palestinians were merely trying to "repair our political system."

Such attempts at reconciliation have failed in the past.

The U.S. Congress is required to suspend funding to the Palestinians if the deal sticks and Hamas doesn't renounce violence, recognize Israel, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki pointed out that Hamas and Fatah have made similar announcements in the past so therefore this is "a statement of intent."

At this point talk of cutting funds is "hypothetical," Psaki said.

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Julie Stahl

CBN News Middle East Correspondent

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