Netanyahu to Palestinians: ‘Tear Up Your Pact With Hamas’

By Matt Cover | May 24, 2011 | 3:07 PM EDT

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AP Photo/Uriel Sinai, Pool)

Washington ( – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a challenge to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to “tear up” his pact with the terrorist group Hamas to create a Palestinian unity government.

In a joint speech to Congress on Tuesday, Netanyahu called upon Abbas to “tear up” the recently signed agreement with Hamas (“Islamic Resistance Movement”) to form a unity government between the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

“So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate! Make peace with the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said.

“And if you do, I promise you this,” said Netanyahu. “Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so.”

The U.S. State Department classifies Hamas as a “foreign terrorist organization.”

In his speech to Congress today, Netanyahu called Hamas “the Palestinian version of al Qaeda,” saying there was no chance an Israeli government would negotiate with Hamas.

“Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda,” said the Israeli leader.

Netanyahu made the case to both chambers of Congress that Hamas was not the reformed political party it poses as, but is a terrorist group bent on murdering Jews.

“And Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel's destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews everywhere you find them’,” Netanyahu explained.

“Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy warrior,” said Netanyahu.

Islamic Jihad gunmen perform for the media in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008 (AP Photo)

Hamas and the Fatah party – led by Abbas – announced on May 4 that they would end over five years of civil conflict that began when Hamas swept Palestinian elections and then forced Fatah from Gaza and after world powers, including the United States, rejected Hamas’ electoral victory.

Netanyahu told Congress that for militant Palestinian factions like Hamas, accepting the existence of Israel as a Jewish state was impossible, noting that Palestinian children are still taught that one day their descendants will flood into Israel.

“So why has peace not been achieved?  Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it,” said the Israeli leader. “In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli prime ministers to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War [in 1967].”

“They were simply unwilling to end the conflict,” he said. “And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists.  And, worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.”

Netanyahu further challenged Abbas to stand up and tell the Palestinian people that he would accept a Jewish state existing peacefully alongside an Arab one.

“President Abbas must do what I have done,” said Netanyahu.  “I stood before my people -- and I told you it wasn’t easy for me -- and I said, ‘I will accept a Palestinian state.’ It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say,  ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’”