Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas questioned Tuesday Israel’s belief in democracy after Israeli foreign minister suggested that Israel reconsider the pullout from the Gaza Strip if Hamas wins in Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Addressing participants in the Arab-South American summit in Brasilia, Abbas also criticized Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to postpone the withdrawal from Gaza.

‘Here I ask myself. What kind of democracy is this? What democracy do the Israelis believe in?’ Abbas asked.

“Palestinians believe in a democracy which could create the results necessary for lasting peace in the Middle East,” he added.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on Monday called for reconsidering the disengagement plan in light of Hamas’ growing political clout, but Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz dismissed Shalom’s proposal, saying that Israel should go ahead of disengagement as a unilateral step with no regard to Palestinian elections’ results. 

South American and Arab leaders opened their first summit Tuesday to usher in a new wave of political and economic cooperation.

‘We are facing a historic opportunity to build the foundation for a bridge of solid cooperation between South America and the Arab world,’ Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said.

Silva urged the participants to fight for free-trade rules that help the developing world’s masses who live in misery, instead of benefiting only rich countries and multinational corporations.

Regarding the Palestinian issue, a draft declaration calling Israel to disband settlements in Palestinian territory, including ‘those in East Jerusalem,’ and retreat to its borders before the 1967 war is likely to be approved.

The document denounces terrorism, but asserts the right of people ‘to resist foreign occupation in accordance with the principles of international legality and in compliance with international humanitarian law.’