The first meeting between the leadership of the Hamas party, the overwhelming victor in Jan. 25th legislative elections, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took place Monday morning in Cairo.
The Hamas leadership appeared pleased with the meeting, in which Abbas did not make expected demands that the Hamas party recognize Israel or past agreements as a precondition for joining the government.
Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, said that rumors that Abbas would take over the security infrastructure in Palestine were untrue. The Palestinian president "did not pose any political conditions related to the agreements, or to anything else," Haniyeh said.
As to whether Hamas would accept the preconditions set by Israel for negotiations (ie. renunciation of violence, acceptance of all past negotiations, and the recognition of the state of Israel) "The Israeli occupation has to recognise our legitimate rights first. Negotiations with Israel are not on our agenda." Mahmoud Zahar, another Hamas leader, said: "We are not going to recognise the Israeli enemy."
Musa Abu Marzuk, a leader in the Hamas party, said in a press conference in Egypt Saturday that the Palestinian recognition of the state of Israel in the 1993 Oslo agreement was a major mistake that should be corrected, and that that recognition was made by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, not by the Palestinians themselves. "All of the agreements since 1993 between Israel and Palestinians are illegitimate, because Israel is not committed to its part of these agreements." He added that his party will not discuss the issue of recognizing Israel and thus legitimizing its occupation.
Abu Marzak also implied that Hamas might be willing to accept the legitimacy of the existence of Israel, with the eventual recognition of a state along the 1967 borders, if Israel is willing to accept the core Palestinian demands: establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jerusalem as its capital and allowing millions of refugees to return to their homeland inside Israel.
As unofficial preparations begin for the establishment of a new government, different power-sharing possibilities were discussed by the Hamas leadership and Abbas. An offer last week extended by Hamas to Abbas’ Fateh party to form a coalition government has yet to be accepted. Such a coalition would allow Hamas to sidestep dealings with Israel, and may allow Israeli acting prime minister Ehud Olmert to stick to his Monday morning promise that he would not negotiate with any Palestinian government that consisted of Hamas members.
The Palestinian Parliament appears on schedule to begin on Feb. 16, and while the current atmosphere points to the likelihood of Hamas/Fateh partnership, Abbas’ top aide, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said that as the biggest bloc in parliament, it will be Hamas’ right to form the cabinet, with or without Abbas’ support.