Haniyeh: Withdrawal to '67 lines condition for deal

By Aluf Benn

Haaretz

Shvat 28, 5766

Hamas' candidate for Palestinian Authority prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, told the Washington Post that Hamas will examine all of the agreements signed with Israel, and will honor those that are in the best interest of the Palestinians.

Haniyeh's comments, made in an interview with the Washington daily, will be published in full on Sunday.

Haniyeh, seen as a leader of the more pragmatic wing of Hamas, also told the interviewer Hamas would honor agreements that guarantee the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, and those that pledge the release of Palestinian prisoners.

When asked if Hamas would be willing to recognize Israel should it agree to withdraw to the 1967 borders, Haniyeh told the Washingon Post that Hamas would agree to a peace deal in stages, the first of which would call for stability and longterm ceasefire. He also said, "We have no hostile feelings toward Jews and we don't want to throw them into the sea. All we want is to get our land back and not to hurt anyone."

U.S.: Humanitarian aid to Palestinians won't be cut
United States State Department official David Welch promised Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday that the United States will not cut off humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, even after a Hamas government takes over.

During the first high-level meeting between the two sides since the election victory of the Islamic militant group last month, Welch assured Abbas that the United States supports the chairman and his policies, and praised his speech during the opening Palestinian parliament session earlier this month, according Israel Radio reported.

"The United States has long been a supporter of the Palestinian people, through a substantial contribution of our foreign assistance funds... we continue to be devoted to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and it shall remain so," Welch said.

"It is our belief that it is important for the people in the Palestinian territories ... to have a good life in safety and security with economic wellbeing," Welch added.

Welch is to meet Sunday with Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Abbas told Welch the United States must respect the Palestinians' election of Hamas last month. He noted that tens of millions of dollars in U.S. aid flow directly into infrastructure projects every year, not to the Palestinian government, which by next month will be controlled by Hamas.

"We urged the U.S. administration to continue helping the Palestinian people, as it did in previous years," Erekat said after the meeting. "They have never transferred a single dollar to the Palestinian Authority directly. The money was being transferred via non-governmental organizations."

The United States and the European Union consider Hamas a terror organization and have said they would not fund a government led by the militants.

Abbas urges Israel, world to stop pressuring Hamas
Abbas urged Israel and the international community to avoid pushing Hamas "into a corner", and to give it time to moderate its stances, the Irish Independent reported Saturday on its Website.

Abbas made the comments in an interview to ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby that will be aired Sunday.

Abbas said that Hamas would make its position in power "compatible with international policies," and praised the faction's "wise and rational" Prime Minister designate Ismail Haniyeh as "flexible and diplomatic."

"They will listen to many things that will make them think about their political position. I think that in order to assume responsibility, their policies have to be compatible with international policies," Abbas said.

He added that Hamas' tour of Arab states and Russia is likely to be influential in persuading Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

When asked if he will resign from power if he can't deliver what he wants in terms of the peace process, Abbas replied: "We could reach a point where I cannot perform my duty - then I will not continue sitting in this place, against and in spite of my convictions. If I can do something I will continue, otherwise I won't."

Abbas told Israel's Channel 10 TV on Friday that Hamas was trying to halt rocket fire on Israel and is trying to calm Palestinian streets.

Bush reiterates that if Hamas wants aid it must recognize Israel
U.S. President George W. Bush said Friday that Hamas must decide whether it wants the help of the international community to build an independent state.

"The leaders of Hamas have a choice to make. If they want the help of America and the international community to build a prosperous, independent Palestinian state, they must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace.

"The international community must continue to make clear to Hamas that democratically elected leaders cannot have one foot in the camp of democracy and one foot in the camp of terror. The world is waiting to see what choice Hamas makes" Bush said in an address to the American Legion in Washington D.C.

UN lobbies for Palestinian aid
The United Nations is urging donors to provide funds to keep the Palestinian Authority running after Israel starts withholding tax revenues next week, rebuffing Israel's appeal for a suspension of aid, diplomats said on
Friday.

Meanwhile, the European Union is expected to approve the release of around $107,000 next week to help PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' caretaker administration.

The UN stand has put a spotlight on disagreements over Israeli and Western efforts to put pressure on a Hamas-led Palestinian government to renounce violence, recognize Israel and abide by interim peace deals with it.

The UN's special envoy to the Middle East, Alvaro de Soto, will brief the Security Council on Tuesday on his talks in the region, aides said. He has expressed concern in recent days that an aid cut-off could lead to the collapse of the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

"We are advocating that the (Palestinian Authority) institutions should not be starved of funds to the point where they collapse," said a diplomatic source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Israel argues that a 2001 Security Council resolution obliging member states to cut off funds to "terrorist" groups applies to the Palestinian Authority starting on February 18, when Hamas was sworn in as the majority bloc in the parliament.

De Soto countered that Israel's decision to withhold the tax money it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority ran counter to the position taken last month by the Quartet of major peace mediators - the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.