Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) is interviewed for the BBC, Fox News and MSNBC in Jerusalem, on April 24, 2014. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erikat accused Israel on Thursday of undermining the peace process with its decision to halt talks with the Palestinian National Authority because of the latter's reconciliation with Hamas rulers of Gaza. (Xinhua/JINI/GPO/Haim Zach)
RAMALLAH, April 24 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erikat accused Israel on Thursday of undermining the peace process with its decision to halt talks with the Palestinian National Authority because of the latter's reconciliation with Hamas rulers of Gaza.
"Israel was asked to choose between peace or settlement, but it has chosen settlement ... It has purposely worked to sabotage the peace process," Erikat said.
He added that the Palestinian reconciliation is a priority and that peace cannot be made without restoring the national Palestinian unity.
"Israel cannot use the reconciliation as a pretext to escape its peace commitments," he said, blaming Israel for interfering the Palestinians' internal affairs.
Erikat also criticized Israel's decision to impose economic sanctions against the Palestinian authority and freeze the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian government.
Earlier on Thursday the Israeli security cabinet decided to suspend the U.S.-mediated peace talks five days before they end.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that Israel will respond to unilateral Palestinian action with a series of punitive measures. Israeli media outlets reported that freezing tax revenues is among these measures.
The Israeli decisions came in protest to a reconciliation deal between Hamas rulers of Gaza and the Palestinian authority.
On Wednesday rival Palestinian Hamas movement and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party announced a reconciliation agreement after two days of discussions in the Gaza Strip.
Under the agreement, Abbas would start discussions to form a unity government within five weeks and call for general elections six months after forming the new administration.
The new understandings would end a Palestinian political rift that started in June 2007 when Hamas took over Gaza after routing forces loyal to Abbas who now rules the West Bank.