PA minister: Hamas could be forced to make peace

PA Minister for Prisoner Affairs: If Israel makes peace with PA in West Bank, Palestinian people will push Hamas' hand.

Hamas guns in air 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Hamas guns in air 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
If Israel comes to a formal peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Hamas will have no choice but to accept it, PA Minister for Prisoner Affairs Ashraf al-Ajrami said Thursday. "I am 100 percent certain that if a peace agreement is reached, the Palestinian public will support it, and therefore Hamas will have to support it or risk losing their base of public support," Ajrami said. He spoke at a conference organized by both the Geneva Initiative and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung on the Geneva Initiative. He said that if a referendum on that peace plan were called, Hamas would be unable to oppose it. "The Palestinians ultimately want their quality of life to improve, and Israelis will see that if they offer real incentive as part of the peace agreement, the popular opinion on the street will be in favor of moving forward," he said. In such a deal, Ajrami said, Fatah would not be interested in the proposal by Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman that calls for swapping populated tracts of land. But Fatah would consider exchanging empty territory on a small scale, he said. Ajrami added that the current situation was similar to that prior to the Oslo Accords. "As soon as Oslo happened, the people supported it and Hamas's standing went down," he said. "The people saw Hamas as an alternative, but now that they have experienced the alternative that Hamas has to offer, they realize that it is not a good one." Ajrami rejected reports of reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions, saying that no Fatah officials were interested in making up with Hamas at this time. "I don't know whether or not this is the last opportunity we will have for peace [with Israel], but it might be. We must seize this opportunity or suffer the consequences of regret," he said. With respect to IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit, kidnapped by Hamas in June 2006, Ajrami said that "negotiations have stopped completely." Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.