WASHINGTON - In an interview with NTV1 over the weekend Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said that he would not stay in office should the entrance of Hamas into the Palestinian parliament prevent him from influencing PA policy and advancing the peace process.
“If I will still be able to do something I will continue, if not – I’ll resign,” he said, adding that Hamas must abandon the armed struggle and recognize Israel.
However, Abbas also called on the international community to give Hamas a chance to prove itself instead of backing the organization into a corner.
Ismail Haniyeh (left) with Abbas (Photo: AP)
The Palestinian leader expressed his hope that the scheduled visit by a Hamas delegation to Russia would have a positive influence on the group.
“They (Hamas members) will hear many opinions that will make them consider their political perspective,” Abbas said.
“I believe they are responsible, and in order to continue projecting this responsibility they must adapt themselves to international policy.”
Meanwhile, during a meeting with Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat proposed that for six months following the elections in Israel the sides would hold talks on a permanent agreement while implementing the Road Map peace initiative.
According to Erekat, should Israel and the PA reach an agreement during this time, Abbas would bring the deal to a Palestinian referendum.
“I estimate that Abbas will resign if Israel will not show a willingness to negotiate after the elections,” Beilin said.
“So, those who do not want negotiations with Abbas will get a Hamas representative such as Khaled Mashaal or Mahmoud al-Zahar heading the PA.”
While the Israeli government has decided this week to impose large-scale sanctions against the Palestinian Authority in wake of Hamas' rise to power, the United States still has not said the last word on the issue.
The world waits to see what choice Hamas will make, American President George W. Bush said in a speech in Washington Friday.
According to Bush, Hamas' leaders have to decide if they wish to get the U.S.' assistance. If so, they will have to recognize Israel, renounce terror and strive for a lasting peace with the country.
'Hamas' win not source for instability'
Democratically elected representatives cannot engage in both democracy and terror, Bush stated.
Bush also expressed hope Hamas will adopt a more pragmatic policy now that it has won the elections. It is easier to be a martyr than a cabinet minister, the president said.
When you take responsibility for building roads and bridges, and for health and education, you are likely to be less enthusiastic about bombing clinics, schools and bridges, he explained.
Democratically elected leaders must bring to real changes in the lives of their voters, or they will be kicked out in the next elections, Bush added.
According to the American president, this is the lesson Hamas leaders will have to learn once they are established in office.
Hamas ran to parliament with a platform of battling corruption and improving social services, and now its performance will be measured according to the exact same criterions, he concluded.
The president refrained from commenting on the IDF's military operations
in the West Bank in the last 24 hours, during which 7 Palestinians have been killed.
Bush rebutted allegations that his efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East are behind the regions' volatility and the rise of extremist Islamic groups to power, under democratic auspices.
Hamas' win is not a source for instability, the president stressed, saying the Mideast has not been a fortress of democracy before the group took office.
Abbas told Israel’s channel 10 that Hamas has already turned to Islamic Jihad and al-Quds representatives requesting that they refrain from firing at Israel, adding that only he as PA chairman would determine its policy.
'Their release will be our new government’s top priority'
As to Hamas’ apparent intent to release the murderers of Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi, Abbas said, “I see no problem in releasing him (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General-Secretary Ahmad Saadat, jailed in Jericho for his role in the murder), but the Israel government is threatening to kill him – and then who will be held responsible if he gets killed or hurt?
“If the PLFP is willing to take responsibility, then I have no objection – I’ll release him; then he and the PLFP will suffer the consequences. The minute he leaves prison an Apache (helicopter) will kill him.”
Hamas leader Mashaal told Arab-Israeli newspaper Kul al-Arab that his organization would positively consider Saadat’s release, saying “Hamas’ objects to the imprisonment of Palestinians in PA jails, especially those under U.S. and British supervision, as is the case in the Jericho prison.”
“Therefore, their release will be our new government’s top priority; it is natural that we begin a process for their release to strengthen out position so we will be able to act for the release of those held in Israeli prisons,” he said.