The Hamas leadership is considering recognizing the principles of the Saudi peace initiative that has been approved at the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002, Israel's leading daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.
The initiative's basic outline calls for recognition of Israel by the Palestinians in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and an Israeli approval of the plan.
These discussions within Hamas are being conducted in light of pressure exerted by Arab countries and in a bid to alleviate international pressure and the isolation the Hamas-led government has been subjected to since its election. They are also the result of Hamas' aspiration to ease the financial blockade on the Palestinian Authority.
If Hamas accepts the Saudi plan, this would in effect constitute recognition in the principle of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders whose capital is east Jerusalem.
Recognizing Israel 'de facto'
During the last few days, the Hamas leadership in the territories and abroad has held debates and consultations on the matter, including discussions with the leadership of Hamas' prisoners in Israel. In the framework of these discussions it has been agreed to recognize the Saudi initiative without renouncing the group's principles of struggle.
Hamas sources said that the organization would be willing to accept Israel's existence de facto, but not to recognize the country's legitimacy.
"We are willing to reach peace with Israel and accept all the agreements signed between Israel and the PLO, if Israel implements the principles of the Saudi initiative and withdraw fully from all the territories that were occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem," a Hamas official stated on Saturday, stressing this did not represent a new stance adopted by the group, only a new declaration. "Sheikh Yassin said this a few times in the past, as did Khaled Mashaal," he said.
Sources in the organization also stressed that in the framework of the plan, Israel would be forced to concede the entire West Bank and east Jerusalem, "including Ma'aleh Adumim, the Har Homa neighborhood and Pisgat Ze'ev."
Abbas calls for world conference
Meanewhile, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said last week that an international conference should be called immediately for direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel.
Abbas said in a speech in Oslo that an international group should serve as a broker, possibly the so-called "Quartet" Of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
"An international conference should be summoned immediately, in which direct negotiations take place, on the basis of international U.N. Resolutions and signed agreements," Abbas said.