ismail hanieh 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
In a conciliatory message to Israeli voters on the eve of the election, Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh said Hamas wanted to end the bloodshed and the longstanding conflict in the region.
"We don't want a whirlpool of blood in this region," Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza City as he prepared to present his cabinet to the Palestinian Legislative Council for a vote of confidence.
"We want the rights and dignity of our people. We also want to put an end to this complicated conflict that has been going on for decades." Hamas leader Haniyeh said his movement's victory in the January 25 parliamentary election was not the reason why the conflict was continuing. "On the contrary," he added, "Hamas's presence in power marks the beginning of resolving the crisis."
Haniyeh lashed out at Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to withdraw unilaterally from some areas in the West Bank, saying it was unacceptable because it would be carried out without coordination with the Palestinians.
He added that the Palestinians would not accept the future borders of a Palestinian state as defined by Israel.
Asked if Hamas would be prepared to hold negotiations with Israel, Haniyeh said the real problem was Olmert and his Kadima Party. "He said that he wouldn't negotiate with the [new] Palestinian cabinet," Haniyeh said. "He has stated his position and the problem is not with us." Haniyeh stressed, however, that his cabinet was entitled to pursue the fight against Israeli occupation. "Hamas was elected on the basis of the principle of defending the legitimacy of resistance to the occupation," he said.
Haniyeh expressed confidence that his cabinet would be ratified by the PLC during its special session on Monday. He said his cabinet's program would emphasize the Palestinians' right "to defend themselves against Israeli measures and challenges."
He accused unnamed Palestinian parties of trying to drive a wedge between him and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. "I believe there are some parties in the Palestinian arena that are trying to create tension between President Abbas and the cabinet," he said. "Yet I don't expect a crisis between us because our relations are good."
Incoming Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar took a more militant stance when he declared on Sunday that Hamas would not "give up one inch of Palestine." Addressing a rally in Beit Sahour on the second anniversary of the assassination of former Hamas leader and founder Ahmed Yassin, Zahar said, "Even if the US gave us all its money in return for recognizing Israel and giving up one inch of Palestine, we would never do so even if this costs us our lives." He said Yassin had sacrificed his life "for the sake of the Aksa Mosque and Palestine and his blood would therefore not be wasted. Our right to pursue the resistance will remain as long as the occupation continues over our lands and holy sites."
In another development, the only Christian who was supposed to serve as a minister in the Hamas cabinet has backed away, citing health problems. Sources in Bethlehem told The Jerusalem Post that Tanas Abu Aitah, who had been named tourism minister, decided to quit following immense pressure from some Palestinians and foreign parties.
Anwar Abu Zubun, a Hamas legislator from Bethlehem, quoted Abu Aitah as saying that he had come under heavy pressure from his family and other local and foreign parties. Abu Aitah reportedly complained that some tourist companies abroad had threatened to cut off their business ties with him and his family if he agreed to join a Hamas cabinet. Abu Aitah's family owns a number of hotels and souvenir shops in Bethlehem.
The legislator revealed that Abu Aitah had also received faxed threats warning him against joining the Hamas cabinet. "He faced unprecedented pressure," he added, noting that Hamas has chosen Judeh Murqus, another Christian from Bethlehem, as the new tourism minister. Murqus, 47, worked as a civil engineer in the Bethlehem Municipality.
Meanwhile, Abbas on Sunday held talks in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm e-Sheikh with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The talks focused on the upcoming Arab summit in Sudan and the latest developments in the Palestinian and Israeli arenas, PA officials said.
Following the meeting, Abbas called on Arab states to support the Palestinians by continuing their economic aid and adhering to the road-map plan for peace in the Middle East. "We look forward to the Arab summit, to Arab support for the Palestinians to continue, and the Arab states should - and we hope they will - continue their economic aid to the Palestinian people and comply with international legitimacy, especially the road map," Abbas said.
He denied that he had issued a threat to Hamas because of its political program, saying he had only pointed out that their political program was different from that of the PLO and the PA.