Fresh from claiming in a meeting last week with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that he will demand Hamas recognize the existence of Israel, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in an Arabic-language interview neither Hamas nor his own Fatah party is required to recognize the Jewish state.
"Hamas is not required, Hamas is not required to recognize Israel. ... It is not required of Hamas, nor of Fatah, nor of the Popular Front (for the Liberation of Palestine) to recognize Israel," Abbas told the pan-Arab al-Arabiya satellite television network last week according to a translation by the Israel-based Palestinian Media Watch monitor group.
In a meeting in Ramallah with Rice last week, Abbas said he would demand Hamas recognize Israel as a precondition for establishing a unity government.
Rice in turn told reporters at a press conference alongside Abbas that the US would find ways to help the PA president. She said she had "great admiration" for Abbas' leadership and for what she said was his "willingness" to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
But Abbas explained to al-Arabiya that Fatah itself has never officially recognized Israel.
"The PLO, in 1993, recognized Israel as Israel recognized the PLO. Every person has the right to say 'I do not recognize.' Okay? It's your right. It is the right of every organization," said Abbas.
'Recognition extends to political counterparts only'
Still, Fatah leaders, including Abbas, have made scores of statements recognizing the Jewish state.
But Abbas told al-Arabiya such stated recognition was necessary to deal with "every day" Palestinian matters. He explained his recognition only extends to Israeli political counterparts, but not to Israel itself.
"The (Palestinian) government which will be formed, and which will function opposite the Israelis on a daily basis ... (every hour and perhaps every second, there will be contact between Palestinian ministers and Israeli ministers. And I ask) how can this government, or these ministers, not recognize their counterparts, and then solve people's problems?"
As an example of the need to recognize Israeli politicians, Abbas referenced nearly USD 500 million in tax revenues intended for the PA but put on hold by Israel after Hamas was elected.
"The Palestinian finance minister has to come to an agreement with the Israeli finance minister about the transfer of the money. So how can he make an agreement with him if he does not recognize him?"
Reprinted with permission of WorldNetDaily