Two Hamas lawmakers on Sunday dismissed any future peace talks with Israel, calling past negotiations "a failed experiment" and said Arab nations had rejected U.S. pressure to force the militant Palestinian movement to moderate.
Hamas leaders Mahmoud al-Zahar and Saeed Syiam made the comments during a gathering of Arab parliamentarians on the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea.
Speaking to The Associated Press on the sidelines of the conference, Zahar asserted that Hamas' recent upset victory in last month's legislative elections strengthened its
"We don't consider the Israeli enemy a partner. By winning the elections, we defeated Israel," he said.
"Why should we recognize Israel? Pressure is coming from the United States on us, not from Arab countries," he added.
He said negotiations between the previous Palestinian government and Israel "a failed experience that would not be repeated."
Syiam pointed to the refusal by Arab heavyweights, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - key Mideast U.S. allies - to support a U.S. Financial boycott of Hamas as it takes control of the Palestinian parliament.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the failed appeal during her visit to the region last week.
"Rice's visit was provocative, but we found that the Arab position was so firm that she wasn't able to change their views," Syiam told AP.
Moussa: Support for Palestinians doesn’t change
On Saturday, The Washington Post quoted
Hamas' prime minister-designate, Ismail Haniyeh, as saying, "if Israel withdraws to the '67 borders, then we will establish a peace in stages" - the first time the group used the word "peace" in conjunction with the Jewish state.
On Sunday, however, Hamas denied
the comments attributed to Haniyeh in the interview.
"Hamas has the full interview recorded and there is no connection to what the sheikh said to the headlines in the newspaper," said Hamas party list spokesman Dr. Salah al-Bardaweil.
In the meantime, Hamas has refused to accept Israel's conditions for negotiations: recognize the Jewish state, disarm and accept past agreements with Israel, including interim peace accords.
Syiam said that difficulties faced by exiled Hamas leaders prohibited from entering Jordan, such as Khaled Mashaal, could be solved by talks with the Jordanian authorities.
But al-Zahar added that "no contacts with government officials have yet taken place. We hope that Jordan's doors will be open for our brothers abroad."
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, upon arrival in Amman, told journalists that "it is necessary to support Hamas because they are the choice of the Palestinian people."
Moussa, who is expected to participate in the Arab lawmaker's conference, said Hamas has the right to be given the full opportunity to form a new government and work for national unity because it was democratically elected."
Our support to the Palestinian people doesn't change with a change in government, he added.
Despite the harsh statements made by Hamas leaders, the U.S. is attempting to prevent escalation and is asking that Israel not define the Palestinian Authority as an enemy country while simultaneously working to have PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas act against terror activity, mainly Qassam rocket fire.
During his meeting with U.S. envoy David Welch, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, “there is no artificial separation between Abbas and the Hamas-controlled Authority; this must be stressed and understood.”
Welch, for his part, said that measures such as declaring the PA an enemy state may lead to chaos.
'Israel is not interested in harming Palestinian civilians'
Israeli government officials said in response that Israel has defined the Authority as a terror, not an enemy, state, so as not to reach an irreversible situation.
“However, we expect the international community, headed by the U.S., to act toward the immediate cessation of terror, including the Qassam fire,” one official said.
“The ball is in Palestinian hands, but Washington has a lot of leverage in stopping the escalation.”
Israel realizes that the international community will continue to grant humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, but is asking that the process be supervised by international accountants.
Meanwhile, government ministries, mainly the Defense Ministry, are currently in the process of formulating working procedures ahead of the expected establishment of a Hamas-led government in a few weeks time.
“On the one hand, the situation from a security standpoint is almost impossible, because we are talking about a Hamas-controlled terrorist Authority, but on the other hand we must find ways to coordinate the transfer of goods, food and people, as well as more complex issues such as military activity on both sides of the fence,” a security establishment source said.
A government official added that “it is clear to us that this is an Authority headed by a government that refuses to accept Israel’s conditions for dialogue, including our right to exist in peace and the dismantling of terror groups.”
“Israel is not interested in harming Palestinian civilians, because hunger and chaos will only serve Hamas and terror,” he said, “but the terror continues and only today we heard of a rise in Qassam launchings and terror alerts.
“Our formula as of now is continued talks with our allies in the U.S. and the international community to prevent escalation that would lead to deterioration in the area.”
Associated Press, Ali Waked contributed to the report