Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahaar, a prominent leader of Hamas said on Tuesday that his movement will contest the Palestinian Parliamentary elections slated to be held in January despite the Israeli threats to obstruct the democratic process if Hamas takes part in it, Palestinian sources reported on Wednesday.

Al-Zahaar dismissed the Israeli threats of obstructing the election process in the West Bank if Hamas participated saying, ‘We are here and say it loud and clear that our option is not an Israeli option, and our partner in politics, security, and economy will never be a Zionist one. We are committed to our Arab and Muslim identity and we insist on opening contacts with our Arab and Muslim neighbors, who should patronize the Palestinian people for their role in rising up high the Arab and Muslim dignity and honor’.

Israel: We will not allow Hamas to contest the elections

Quartet to Hamas: Disarm and recognize Israel first,

US: It is a Palestinian Process, a transitional one

Israel recited its rejection to Hamas taking part in the Palestinian Legislative elections scheduled for January, yet this time it is backed by the Quartet who adopted Israel’ stand, Israeli sources reported.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom declared clearly that Israel will not allow Hamas to take part in the elections.

Last week, the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that Israel would obstruct the elections if Hamas was allowed to take part.

Sharon recited keeping the roadblocks and the checkpoints in the West Bank in place which will obstruct the movement, therefore the voting.

Yet, Shalom’s statement hinted to completely preventing Hamas of contesting the elections.

‘We will not allow the Hamas to take part in the elections,’ he said.

Repeating the same statements, Shalom regarded removing the roadblocks that cuts disconnects the West Bank parts from each other as an aid that will not be offered.

‘From our standpoint, there will be no assistance and no aid, if Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel, which still refuses to recognize the existence of Israel, will participate in the elections,’ he said.

Israel managed to convince the representatives of the United States, The European Union, Russia and the United Nations, with their stand, even partially.

‘Ultimately, those who want to be part of the political process should not engage in armed group or militia activities, for there is a fundamental contradiction between such activities and the building of a democratic state,’ the Quartet said in the statement voiced by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The Quartet did not fully back Israel’s demand to bar Hamas from standing in the legislative elections; yet, it conditioned its participation with the movement disarming its groups and to recognize Israel.

On the other hand, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has signaled a little ease on their stand concerning the participation of Hamas in the elections describing it as a Palestinian Process, urging Israel to cooperate.

‘I think we have to give the Palestinians some room for the evolution of their political process,’ said Rice.

However, Rice assumed that Hamas will change its stance once it becomes part of the Palestinian Authority, and that this is a transitional period that the PA is passing through.

‘We understand that the Palestinian political system is in transition, that it is in transition towards a democratic system and that that has to be a Palestinian process,’ the US secretary remarked.

Local observers said that preventing a group, which plays a major role in the political life of the Palestinians to take part in ‘democratic’ elections, is the most sever thing that can be done to democracy.

Hamas had a strong showing in the local governments’ elections held this year.  It did not take part in the presidential elections which took place last January.  Hamas declared its intention to contest the upcoming elections, which were delayed to January 2006 after being scheduled to take part in July 2005.