Israeli officials demanded Hamas to disarm and to change its charter before participating in the Palestinian Parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2006, Israeli sources reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom have expressed Israel’s opposition to Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in their meetings with foreign diplomats, pointing to the organization’s violent activities and to its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel.

Palestinians reject Israel’s intervention in what they described as an internal Palestinian affair.

Although Hamas is still on the European Union terror list, the Europeans do not oppose contacts with Hamas members who were elected in the municipal councils or those who will compete in the parliamentary elections.

Unlike the United States, the EU distinguishes between the military and the political wings of Hamas.

The sources said the Israeli government has not decided how to respond if Hamas does contest the elections.

Hamas who boycotted the recent presidential elections held last January, and boycotted the 1996 parliamentary and presidential elections, contested the municipal elections and had a strong showing in most of the areas, especially in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has decided to contest the parliamentary elections as well.

Hamas was studying the option of joining the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which officially recognized Israel in 1993 through the declaration of principles singed in Washington in the USA.

The PLO accepted to drop 78 percent of Historic Palestine for having a Palestinian state on the remainder, [West Bank and the Gaza Strip] known as the pre-1967 borders. 

Hamas joining the PLO, observers say, means accepting these principles and accepting the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.