Hamas rejects referendum demand

Mashaal: "He who wants to know the popular will should refer to the elections."

mashaal 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
mashaal 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas rejects the proposal to hold a referendum on recognizing Israel as the Palestinian people have expressed their views in the January elections, the group's leader, Khaled Mashaal, has said. Speaking after a ceremony for two Islamic Jihad members killed by a car bomb in Lebanon last week, Mashaal criticized the step taken by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas gave Hamas, which controls the Palestinian Authority government, 10 days to moderate or face a referendum on a plan that would accept the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The plan calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem and effectively recognizes Israel - a step that Hamas has long refused to take. "He who wants to know the popular will should refer to what this will determined four months ago in legislative elections," Mashaal said Monday night, referring to the Jan. 25 polls that Hamas won by a landslide. "We are determined to stick to our national principles," Mashaal added. The Hamas government has incurred the cutting off of funds from the United States and European Union because of its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence. Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar said this week that Abbas could go ahead with his referendum, but Hamas will never recognize Israel. "We are not afraid of a referendum. But it is a waste of time, a waste of money. This process needs money. We have no money," Zahar told The Associated Press during a visit to Malaysia. The plan that would be put to the referendum was negotiated in an Israeli prison by senior Palestinians belonging to Hamas and Abbas' Fatah party. It effectively endorses the idea of two states - a Palestinian and an Israeli. The leader of another Palestinian militant group, Ramadan Shallah of Islamic Jihad, said he also rejected Abbas' referendum proposal. "There will not be, under any circumstances, two states or two people," he said. "There is only one state for one people - the Palestinians." On Friday, the leader of a third militant group, Ahmed Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, criticized the prisoners' plan and said that if a referendum were to be held, the Palestinians abroad should be allowed to take part.