zahar rally 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip on Thursday dismissed as "unacceptable" a call by the Quartet to exclude from any future Palestinian Authority cabinet members of any group that is not committed to Israel's right to exist.
However, some Hamas leaders hinted that the movement would endorse a "pragmatic and realistic" strategy once its representatives join the PA establishment. They argued that the international community's fears of Hamas's rising power were "unjustified and exaggerated."
Hamas leader Mahmoud a-Zahar said he did not rule out the possibility that his movement would even negotiate with Israel in the future. His remarks, like those of other top Hamas leaders, are seen as an attempt to send a message to the international community that would soften its position after next month's parliamentary elections.
Sources close to Hamas told The Jerusalem Post that some of the movement's leaders, who met recently in the Gaza Strip with EU representatives, stressed that Hamas was in the process of transforming into a political party.
"Hamas's decision to participate in the parliamentary elections indicates that it wants to focus on political activity," the Hamas representatives were quoted as saying. "Hamas believes that it can reform the Palestinian Authority and establish a better government that would invest money for the welfare of the people."
On Wednesday, the Quartet, which consists of the US, EU, Russia and the United Nations, issued a statement warning the PA against giving Hamas leaders ministerial posts in a future cabinet.
While the statement did not mention Hamas by name, it said: "The Quartet expressed its view that a future Palestinian Authority Cabinet should include no member who has not committed to the principles of Israel's right to exist in peace and security and an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism."
The Quartet also called on PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas to end attacks on Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
"The Quartet noted the continued importance of security in this regard, and calls on the Palestinian Authority to take immediate steps to ensure law and order, prevent terrorist attacks and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism."
Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's number two man in the Gaza Strip, who is running at the head of the movement's list for the parliamentary elections, condemned the Quartet statement as a "flagrant intervention in the internal affairs of the Palestinians."
Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri accused the Quartet of succumbing to American pressure and inciting the PA against Hamas. "The Quartet has become a platform for expressing American policies," he charged. "We condemn the Quartet's position and wonder why its members remain silent vis- -vis ongoing Zionist aggression on our people and lands."
Less than a month before Palestinians cast their ballots in the first parliamentary elections since the death of Yasser Arafat, Hamas leaders have begun hinting that the movement could abandon violence once its representatives are in power.
A-Zahar, the overall leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said on Thursday that he did not consider negotiations with Israel a "crime." Hamas, he explained, does not rule out the possibility of holding negotiations with Israel, especially if they achieve desired results.
Said Siam, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said he too did not rule out the possibility that Hamas would halt terror attacks on Israel once it takes over the PA establishment. "The suicide bombings are not the only means that Hamas possesses," he explained. "We resort to suicide attacks only in response to Zionist atrocities. We use them only when they serve the interests of our people. But when they don't, we stop."
Earlier this year, Mohammed Ghazal, a senior Hamas representative from Nablus, said that his movement could one day amend its charter that calls for the destruction of Israel. "The charter is not the Koran," Ghazal declared in an interview with Reuters.
"Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we're talking now about reality, about political solutions. The realities are different." Ghazal has since been arrested by the IDF and placed under administrative detention.