Palestinian prime minister-designate Haniyeh: Hamas does not want a bloodbath

By Arnon Regular

Haaretz

Adar 28, 5766

Palestinan Authority prime minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday that Hamas does not seek a confrontation with Israel. Speaking to reporters in Gaza, Haniyeh referred to Tuesday's elections in Israel for the first time, although he did not say which party he preferred.

"Hamas' presence in the regime is the beginning to solving the crisis - if the Israelis want this to happen," he said.

"We don't seek a bloodbath in this region," Haniyeh said. "We want rights and dignity for the Palestinian people, and to put an end to this decades-long complicated situation."

Haniyeh said the intention of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party to carry out unilateral withdrawals from parts of the West Bank is unacceptable.

"We will obviously not prevent Israel from withdrawing, but this doesn't mean that we consider the borders they set to be those of the Palestinian state."

Asked if Hamas would hold talks with Israel, Haniyeh said the decision was out of his hands.

"The problem is with Olmert, with Kadima. He said he would not have any contacts with the Palestinian government.

He announced a position. The problem is not with us," Haniyeh said.

The Palestinian Legislative Council is expected to approve Haniyeh's cabinet today in a video conference session to be held simultaneously in Ramallah and Gaza City.

Hamas has a large majority in the parliament, with 74 members, in addition to the three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and four independent MPs who were elected with the movement's indirect support.

Mahmoud Zahar is expected to be named foreign minister, while Said Seyam has been tipped for the interior minister slot.

Hamas announced yesterday that Judeh Merakes, an engineer who works for the Bethlehem municipality, would be minister of tourism, following Tanas Abu-Eita's decision not to take the job.

Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza Saturday that ending corruption and carrying out internal reforms were at the top of the new government's priorities.

Meanwhile, Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshal said yesterday that the Palestinian militant group was intentionally being excluded from an Arab summit in Sudan and urged Arab leaders to work with the new government Hamas forms.

"There is interest that the new Hamas government not attend the Arab summit despite our keen desire to attend the meeting," he said at a news conference in Kuwait.