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no explicit recognition of Israel

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Friday September 22, 2006

Gaza- The radical Islamic Hamas movement said Friday that it will not participate in a Palestinian unity government whose programme expresses explicit recognition of Israel. But the ruling Palestinian group said it would participate in a unity government that endorsed the Arab peace initiative of 2000 - which would mean an implicit recognition of Israel.

Hamas would be willing to adopt such a platform if allowed to express reservations, said Ahmed Yousef, a chief political advisor to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, of Hamas.

A unity government with the more moderate Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas was a top concern of Hamas, because it wants to end the "siege" on its current cabinet, he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Yousef spoke after Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly late Thursday that any prospective Palestinian unity government would recognize Israel.

Abbas' Fatah and Haniya's Hamas have been negotiating for weeks on the formation of a new government, which they see as the only way out of out of the international isolation and severe financial crisis the Palestinian Authority (PA) has faced since the militant group won legislative elections in January and formed a government six months ago.

The international community has also put its hopes in a unity government with a more moderate platform as a way to revive the stalled Middle East peace process.

"If there is any direct statement in the political programme of the new government regarding recognition of Israel, then Hamas will not participate in such a government," said Yousef.

But, he added, "if it (the platform) talks about the Arab initiative, then Hamas will participate, but with reservations."

The initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia at the March 2002 Arab League Summit in Beirut, pledges recognition by Arab states in return for a full Israeli withdrawal to its borders of before the 1967 Middle East war.

Yousef added that any unity government in which Hamas participated would allow Abbas to conduct negotiations with Israel.

"He has the authority to lead the negotiations and find a just solution, but any conclusions he will have to submit for approval or rejections by the Palestinian institutions," he said.

"I would like to reaffirm that any future Palestinian government will commit to all the agreements that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian National Authority have committed to," Abbas told the General Assembly Thursday.

These agreements, stressed Abbas, included the letters of mutual recognition exchanged between Israel and the PLO on September 9, 1993.

"These letters contain mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, renunciation of violence and commitment to negotiations as the path towards reaching a permanent solution," he said in New York.

Observers said the statement was aimed at mustering international support for the prospective government rather than at raising the pressure on Hamas.

Talks between the president and Haniya on the unity government were expected to resume on Abbas' return to the Palestinian areas early next week.

A platform that expresses acceptance of past agreements signed between Israel and the PLO and of the Saudi peace initiative, but no direct recognition of Israel, would be a face-saving compromise for Hamas.

But the question remains whether such a programme will be sufficient for the United States, European Union and Israel, who have made recognition of Israel a key condition for a resumption of full ties with the PA.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the UN Security Council Thursday that her administration demanded a "true Palestinian commitment" to the renunciation of terrorism, and the recognition of Israel's right to exist and previous Israeli-Palestinian obligations, including the Quartet's "road map" peace plan.

The Quartet, which consists of the US, UN, Russia and the European Union, for its part issued a statement earlier this week saying that it welcomed Abbas' efforts to form a national unity government, but hoped its platform would "reflect Quartet principles."

A senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told dpa Friday that Israel would decide whether to reestablish ties with the PA and resume the transfer of custom duties it collects on its behalf after the government was formed and its policy became clear.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur