Hamas ready to accept 1967 borders for Palestinian state


THE HAMAS movement said yesterday that it had repeatedly told the United States it would accept the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

The organisation’s semi-annual report revealed that Hamas had asked US academics and politicians visiting Gaza to carry messages to Washington calling on the administration to engage in dialogue. Former president Jimmy Carter transmitted such messages to the US authorities from the Hamas leaderships in Gaza and Damascus.

However, Washington has refused dialogue with Hamas until it agrees to formally recognise Israel, halt violence against Israel and accept agreements reached between Palestinians and Israelis since 1993. The US imposed its demands on other members of the Quartet – the EU, UN and Russia – following Hamas’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, also said it had requested the US to stop obstructing efforts to reconcile with Fatah, which administers Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank. However, Washington’s policy of ostracising Hamas suits hardline Fatah figures, humiliated when the organisation was driven from power in Gaza in 2007.

Excluding and isolating Hamas has divided the Palestinian people, left Gazans outside Palestinian decision-making, and prompted Hamas and its allies to try and sabotage direct negotiations between Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

In the run-up to the opening of talks, West Bank-based members of Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedin al-Qassam brigades, killed four Israelis near Hebron and shot and wounded two more near Ramallah.

The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority responded by rounding up hundreds of Hamas supporters in the West Bank and the Israeli army killed a leading Hamas operative, Ayad Shilbaya, near the northern West Bank town of Tulkarem.

Hamas is not alone in opposing the resumption of negotiations, broken off when Israel launched a full-scale offensive against Gaza in December 2008. Hamas enjoys the backing of the more radical Islamic Jihad group as well as nine out of 10 PLO factions, excepting Fatah which is divided over the return to negotiations.

Hamas accuses Mr Abbas of “providing cover for Israel to pursue its policy of settlement construction in the West Bank, eliminating the [Palestinian] refugees’ ‘right of return’ and judaising Jerusalem and the Aqsa mosque.”

Gaza’s de facto prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, says Mr Abbas, whose term of office ended in January 2009, does not have a popular mandate to negotiate with Israel.

The rejection of ongoing talks by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and dissident PLO factions could place Mr Abbas in an impossible position if Israel does not agree to the extension of its partial reduction of settlement construction in the West Bank due to end this month.

Israel army radio has reported that Mr Netanyahu’s office has proposed renewing the moratorium in exchange for the release by the US of Jonathan Pollard, an analyst for the US navy sentenced 25 years ago to life in prison for transmitting classified information to Israel.

However the deal has not been confirmed.