Abbas. No mandate for talks with Israel
Hamas on Thursday called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resign, accusing him of selling the Palestinians "illusions" by moving to resume peace talks with Israel.
Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq told Reuters Abbas lacked a national mandate to agree to four months of indirect negotiations sponsored by Washington, although the Arab League had given its approval.
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The criticism of Abbas by a high-level member of the Islamist group is likely to complicate Arab efforts to mediate between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah faction.
The schism has weakened the Palestinian cause, with Hamas ruling the Gaza Strip independently of the Palestinian Authority.
"Mahmoud Abbas has to step aside. The Palestinian people want a solid leadership that leads them to their national rights and not a leadership that offers compromise after compromise," said Rishq, who is a member of Hamas's politburo.
"Resuming these talks is selling illusions to the Palestinian people and playing with their emotions. Eighteen years of talks with Israel have achieved zero. What is there to expect from an extra four months?"
Talks: Cover to continue settlement
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday Israel hoped to begin indirect negotiations with the Palestinians next week during a visit by George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy.
Palestinian officials said they wanted the US-mediated talks to focus initially on defining the borders of a state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Rishq said Palestinians would not be closer to realising their aspirations for independence because Abbas had ruled out "resistance" as a tool of struggle with Israel.
"If we don't have options, Israel will be tempted to mount more aggression and further refuse to give us any of our rights," said Rishq, who lives in exile in Syria along with other members of the Hamas leadership.
"The decision to go back to the talks gives the Israeli enemy the cover to continue settlements. There will not be anything left to negotiate on," he added.
Abbas has balked at direct talks with Israel until it stops Jewish settlement construction totally. He called Netanyahu's announcement in November of a limited moratorium insufficient.
Rishq did not rule out Hamas agreeing to talks with Israel if they were conducted according to terms that would realise what he described as Palestinian rights.
But he said there was a "US-Israeli veto" that Abbas was following to prevent reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
Hamas has ruled Gaza since it won a brief civil war in 2007 against supporters of Western-backed Abbas's more secular Fatah faction. Egyptian efforts to bring about agreement between the two sides foundered.
The movement had said it could live peacefully alongside Israel if Israel withdrew from all Palestinian land it occupied in the 1967 Middle East War, although Hamas's 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel and for restoring all of British mandate Palestine.