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A top Hamas leader laughed Tuesday at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plans for Israel's final borders, while another Hamas leader said that Jews could be citizens in a Palestinian state.
Hamas, which won the Palestinian legislative elections by a landslide in January, wants Israel to cease to exist and a Palestinian state to be created on all of mandatory Palestine. The defeated Fatah Party believes in a two-state solution based on the pre-'67 borders.
Sheikh Yasser Mansour, No. 5 on the Hamas national list, chuckled over the phone from Nablus when he heard from The Jerusalem Post the list of Jewish settlements in Olmert's vision of Israel's final borders.
"If he wants to find a solution [to the Israel-Palestinan conflict] he must accept less than what he wants," said Mansour evenly.
Olmert's plan, if carried out, would considerably shrink the future Palestinian state and leave the West Bank surrounded by Israel, thereby preventing Palestinians the freedom to travel to and from it without Israeli permission.
As Olmert described his plans, Hamas leaders in Cairo repeated that recognition of Israel is "out of the question."
"What we would like to emphasize is that the Israeli occupation has to first recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people," Ismail Haniyeh, No. 1 on the Hamas list, told Associated Press.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy of Hamas's political leader Khaled Mashaal, said Hamas stands behind its calls for Israel to be replaced by a Palestinian state, but Jews would not be banned by it.
"When historic Palestine is reinstated, they can come and live among us. They will have a Palestinian nationality," he told AP.
Haniyeh, Beirut-based Marzouk, Damascus-based Mashaal, and Mahmoud a-Zahar from Gaza have been holding high-level talks in Cairo with Arab and Egyptian leaders to discuss the formation of the new Palestinian cabinet. On Tuesday they met with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and Mubarak aide Osama el-Baz. The night before they met with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
Baz told reporters afterwards: "It is wrong for one party or another to impose conditions on the Palestinian people or to demand concessions from one side only."
Hamas hopes to form a unity government with the defeated Fatah party. The Fatah central committee members have yet to decide officially if they will join.
"Most central committee members oppose joining them," said Qaddoura Fares, a member of Fatah's revolutionary council. Nevertheless, he said that it depends on what Hamas offers. "If it suits our political program and the agreements we signed we will consider joining," he said.
Fares added that Fatah would not demand that Hamas recognize Israel. "Whether they want to recognize [Israel] or not, that's their issue. But they need to recognize the agreements that we signed," he said.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that if Hamas accepted the PA agreements and a two-state solution, "it will be a different story. But Hamas refuses all of this."
Mashaal has recently said that Hamas would abide by previous agreements signed by the Palestinians with Israel. Some of those agreements are based on recognition of a final two-state solution. Hamas, however, has said that a Palestinian state on pre-'67 borders would be "temporary."
After its meetings in Cairo, Hamas leaders will move on to a tour of Gulf states to drum up money in case Western donors stop funding the Palestinian Authority after Hamas takes control.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is in Kuwait drumming up money to fund the caretaker government until Hamas takes over.