PA minister: Hamas wants instability

Malki says Hamas trying to influence election with rocket attacks; Abbas will negotiate with new gov't.

riad malki 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
riad malki 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki accused Hamas on Monday of trying to influence the outcome of this week's Israeli election, pointing to the continued Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. Riad Malki said "Hamas wants instability in the region" and suggested rockets have continued to be launched from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as "a way to interfere" in the Israeli vote. Israel carried out a three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip last month in an attempt to halt years of rocket fire on southern Israeli communities. Israel and Hamas announced an informal truce on January 18, but two rockets struck southern Israel on Sunday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket attacks. Malki said the Palestinian Authority is "very much worried" that such attacks might "really push Israeli public opinion and the voters to vote for an anti-peace government." Polls suggest that after Tuesday's parliamentary vote, Israel's next government could be more right-wing than the current coalition. The front-runner, Binyamin Netanyahu, has suggested he will try to jump-start the Palestinian economy while expanding settlements and continuing IDF presence in the West Bank indefinitely. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas voiced his willingness to negotiate with Israeli's new leadership, but firmly stated he expects from "the new Israeli government a halt to new settlements." "If the new government doesn't do that, I don't know what will happen with the further stages of the peace process," Abbas, also in Warsaw, said through a translator. Abbas and Malki, who were in Poland for talks with government leaders during a weeklong trip to European capitals, both sought to stress that the Palestinian Authority is willing to negotiate with the new Israeli leadership. They also urged all sides not to squander the opening provided by the election of US President Barack Obama. Malki said Obama clearly has decided "to be fully engaged in the process," and noted the president's telephone call to Abbas shortly after Obama's election victory, as well as his decision to dispatch George Mitchell as the new special US envoy to for Middle East peace. "President Obama has already taken positive steps," Abbas said. "He assured me of his interest and the weight with which he treats the current crisis."