President Shimon Peres on Thursday welcomed the establishment of the new Palestinian unity government, taking a parting shot at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government has blasted the move.
"The idea of a government is a good one," Peres told i24news. The dovish veteran politician leaves office at the end of next month, to be replaced by nationalist hawk Reuven Rivlin.
"Hamas is not part of the government and it is clear that if they had entered this government, nobody would have supported it," said Peres.
"Hamas must say no to terrorism. They are so poor, why do they spend so much on weapons?" Peres said, according to the transcript of the interview to be aired Thursday night. "We left Gaza (in 2005), they are free, independent - why do they continue to fire? What do they want?"
The new Palestinian government, sworn in on June 2, was one of the conditions of the reconciliation agreement signed between warring Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas in April. The agreement seeks to end seven years of bitter fighting between the two groups that began when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Peres's response is in direct contrast to Netanyahu's repeated condemnations of the reconciliation, which has also drawn support from the international community.
Also Thursday, French President Francois Hollande congratulated Abbas on the formation of the new government, and praised its commitment to work for peace with Israel.
During his telephone conversation with Abbas, Hollande "welcomed the commitment by the Palestinian president that the new government will reject violence, remain committed to the peace process and abide by agreements already reached," said a statement from the French president.