Rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, announced Wednesday in a surprise move that they have reached an agreement to reunite their governments after years of fighting, arrests and vicious attacks. The factions said they will create an interim unity government and hold elections within a year.
The move is intended to boost the Palestinians' political strength by providing a unified front in their negotiations, the Associated Press reports.
However, Israel has already rejected the move and signaled that it will not negotiate with any government that includes Hamas, which has the stated goal of destroying the state of Israel.
"The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both. Hamas aspires to destroy Israel and fires rockets at our cities ... at our children," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement as reported by Reuters.
The Obama administration likewise denounced Hamas as a terrorist organization.
The deal between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, which controls the West Bank, was brokered in secret talks by Egypt, the New York Times reports.
"It was the first tangible sign that the upheaval across the Arab world, especially the Egyptian revolution, was having an impact on the Palestinians, who have been losing faith in American-sponsored peace negotiations with Israel and seem now to be turning more to fellow Arabs," it states. "But the years of bitterness will not be easily overcome, and both sides warned of potential obstacles ahead."
There is concern that the deal could jeopardize what Western support Fatah currently has. Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister in the West Bank despised by Hamas, will not be part of the new interim government. Fayyad along with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were considered among the most moderate leaders the Palestinians have had.
Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told Al Jazeera, "I think we are optimistic because ... there is [an] official agreement between Hamas and Fatah, and I think we now have [an] impressive jump to the Palestinian unity."