CAIRO: A senior Fatah official said Wednesday that the Palestinian militant movement Hamas does not need to recognize Israel immediately as a condition for forming a government, hinting it could use recognition as a bargaining chip in the future.
But Jibril Rajoub, a top security aide to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, underlined that Fatah would not join a Hamas-led government unless it recognizes peace agreements with Israel and drops Muslim fundamentalist elements from its political program.
Rajoub was in Cairo on Wednesday meeting with Egyptian officials who have launched a diplomatic effort to try to contain the fallout from Hamas landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections last month. Hamas has rejected pressure from Egypt, the United States and Europe for it to recognize Israel, renounce violence and adopt peace deals with the Jewish state.
Egypt and Fatah, Abbas movement, which has always dominated the Palestinian Authority but lost its ruling party status to Hamas in the election, appear to have accepted that the radical movement won t change its stripes overnight, but were holding out hope for change later.
President Hosni Mubarak told Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz that he believes Hamas will eventually succumb to international pressure after it has formed a government, Mofaz told reporters Tuesday after meeting Mubarak in Cairo. Peace with Israel might come at the hands of Hamas, Mubarak told Israeli television later.
Rajoub said Wednesday that Hamas is not required to recognize Israel as a condition for a (inter-Palestinian) dialogue.
He went further and said our brothers in Hamas will be mistaken if they rush into the recognition as a way out … It is tactically wrong for Hamas to recognize Israel now.
Rajoub did not elaborate, but his comments suggested Hamas could use the possibility of recognizing Israel to extract concessions from the Jewish state in the future.
Hamas has tried to convince Fatah to join in a national unity government, an idea Egypt supported in hopes it would produce a government Israel could deal with in the peace process. But Fatah has resisted participation, saying its moderate ideology is too different from Hamas .
The decision of Fatah to participate in any Hamas-led government is linked to their acceptance of the signed agreements and all the laws that govern Palestinian society that ensure the freedom of individuals to live in dignity and rule of law, Rajoub said.
Hamas should promise not to implement a strict Islamic code of behavior such as imposing the veil on women, he said. They should be clear on this. Half yes and half no will not do, he said.
Rajoub met in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit and Arab League chief Amr Moussa on efforts to form a Palestinian cabinet.
Under 1993 peace deals, the Fatah-led PLO recognized the Jewish state, and Israel and the Palestinians have a host of agreements dealing with everything from administration to peace frameworks.
Hamas, at least publicly, is holding firm to its militant platform and says it won t recognize the Jewish state.
Hamas leaders say they would abide by existing agreements with Israel as long as it is in the interest of our people. They say the group will abandon its fight against Israel only if the Israelis withdraw from occupied territories. The radical group has maintained an uneasy cease-fire for the past year.
Senior Hamas leaders said Wednesday the Islamic militant group would appoint a Cabinet in early March, or several weeks before Israeli elections – a timetable likely to play into the hands of hawkish Israeli parties.
Also Wednesday an Israeli newspaper quoted Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as saying Israel wouldn t deal with the Palestinians at all if Hamas tapped its own people to serve as prime minister and parliament speaker.
Hamas won 74 out of 132 seats in parliamentary elections to Fatah s 45.
The United States and the European Union, both of which regard Hamas as a terrorist organization, have threatened to cut off aid unless it gives up violence and recognizes Israel. AP