Hamas says it won't recognize Israel

Mashaal issues strong warning to Abbas to take no steps without consultation.

khaled mashaal 298.88 (photo credit: AP [File])
khaled mashaal 298.88
(photo credit: AP [File])
Hamas' political chief reiterated Wednesday that the group would not recognize Israel, and issued a strong warning to current Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to take no steps without consulting the group. "I take this opportunity to tell brother Abu Mazen not to make any new moves, changes or appointments" without consulting Hamas, political leader Khaled Mashaal told a press conference in Cairo. "I am saying here that Hamas will not deal with any changes and will consider them null and void." Mashaal may have been responding to reports in the Palestinian press that Abbas planned to appoint his current Interior Minister Nasser Youssef as deputy commander of the Palestinian security forces. Such a move would enable Abbas to maintain control over the forces. Another top leader said earlier Wednesday that Jamal al-Khudairi, an independent legislator-businessman backed by Hamas, would be nominated as Palestinian prime minister. But Mashaal said the group had not yet decided who it would name as prime minster. "Al-Khudairi is a respected Palestinian personality," Mashaal added. "Hamas will not recognize Israel," Mashaal told reporters. "We will not give legitimacy to occupation." Mashaal told the British Broadcasting Corp. earlier Wednesday that a long-term cease-fire with Israel is possible if the Jewish state returned to its 1967 borders. Mashaal also said Hamas would not renounce violence as it is entitled to resist what it regards as Israel's occupation of Palestinian land. He added that Hamas was capable of leading the Palestinians in a long fight that they would be better able to bear than Israel. Al-Khudairi, who chairs the board of the Islamic University in Gaza, was chosen as prime minister designate during a meeting of Hamas leaders this week in Cairo, said the Hamas official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the group has not yet put the proposal to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. If al-Khudari is not accepted in negotiations with Abbas or turns down the nomination, the group would nominate Palestinian Trade and Economics Minister Mazen Sonnoqrot, another independent with Hamas sympathies, the Hamas official said. Al-Khudairi, aged about 50, is a businessman who owns the biggest mattress factory in the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas has said that he will ask Hamas, whose members won the largest number of seats in the Palestinian parliament in last month's elections, to form the new government. Abbas asked the new parliament to convene on Feb. 18. Exiled Hamas leaders from Syria joined Hamas leaders from Gaza in a series of meetings this week in Cairo to try to hammer out the movement's plans for a new Palestinian government after last month's landslide election win. The Hamas official said group leaders from both inside and outside the Palestinian territories had unanimously agreed on the choice of al-Khudairi. Hamas has proposed a national coalition government that would also include Fatah - Abbas' party - plus other Palestinian factions and independent figures. Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad, which carried out six suicide bombings against Israelis in the past year, rejected the idea of a long-term truce with Israel, saying attacks will continue. Khaled Batch, an Islamic Jihad leader, said the group would not join a Hamas government. Islamic Jihad, funded in part by Iran, boycotted last month's parliament vote. Batch's comments signaled that even if international pressure succeeds in persuading Hamas to moderate its violent ideology, other Palestinian radicals are not likely to follow suit.