Israel’s security cabinet voted unanimously yesterday to suspend peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the wake of Wednesday’s announcement that the Fatah faction, led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, had agreed to form a unity government with Hamas.

The seven-member security cabinet met for up to seven hours yesterday in Tel Aviv, following which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement, announcing that negotiations had been suspended. He said, “Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction.” Netanyahu noted that Hamas “calls for Muslims to fight and kill Jews” and has fired more than 10,000 rockets at Israel. The statement also said that “Israel will respond to unilateral Palestinian action with a series of measures.”

US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that the unity agreement “certainly complicates the [peace] process” and that, “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to sit down and negotiate with a group that denies its right to exist.”

Speaking to Channel Two, Israel’s Justice Minister and lead negotiator Tzipi Livni called the decision to suspend talks, “the right one” and commented that Abbas had, “made bad decisions for the peace process.” Later in the day, during a series of media interviews, Netanyahu emphasised that peace talks could resume if Abbas changes course. He toldMSNBC, “I will be there in the future if we have a partner who is committed to peace. Right now we have a partner who has joined another partner committed to our destruction.”

Some commentators speculate that Israel’s government is leaving the door open to talks until it becomes clear what impact the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement will have on issues such as Israeli security cooperation with the PA. Given several unsuccessful attempts at reconciliation since Hamas violently expelled Fatah from Gaza in 2007, it has been suggested in the media that Wednesday’s agreement may not in fact be implemented.