Hamas leaders-in-exile have said that they are ready to consider a 2002 Arab League peace plan – which calls for recognition of Israel and a return to pre-1967 war borders – but only if Israel accepts the proposal first, a senior Hamas official said Tuesday.  Israel has rejected the plan because it calls for a total Israeli withdrawal from land occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, said his group would not obstruct attempts to revive the initiative endorsed by Arab leaders at a 2002 Beirut summit, though he said such initiatives were doomed to fail.

"When Israel agrees to the Arab initiative, Hamas will make a decision," Abu Marzouk told The Associated Press by telephone from Damascus.

The Hamas-led Palestinian government has so far rejected pressure from fellow Arab governments to accept the plan, which they have called the only option for ending conflict with Israel.

A second senior Hamas official, however, said the organization was seriously debating the plan.

The official, who spoke from an Israeli jail and on condition of anonymity because the debate was ongoing, said the group was unlikely to make a quick decision to prevent the appearance of having bowed to external pressure.

Israel has rejected the plan because it calls for a total Israeli withdrawal from land occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The plan also proposes the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Meanwhile, the head of Hamas’ political bureau called on Arab and Muslim states to take "a courageous step" and transfer donations to the Hamas-led government after the U.S. and some European countries cut off aid money.

In a speech at an Islamic symposium in Damascus, Khaled Meshal said "the money is available but it is not allowed to transfer it to the (Palestinian) Authority." He did not elaborate.

The U.S. has tried to pressure Arab banks to withhold funds from the Hamas regime, which it considers a state sponsor of terrorism.

Abu Marzouk’s comments came after the leaders of Egypt and Jordan said Saturday that they hoped to lure Israel back to negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, rather than his Hamas-led government.

Hamas officials have issued mixed signals about such talks.

On Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said he would not "oppose any negotiating move that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas might take with any party, including Israel."

But Abu Marzouk said he considered talks "worthless."

"Negotiations at the current time are futile and would inflict severe injustice on the Palestinian cause because the Palestinian negotiator…has no power to match the Zionist enemy’s power," he said.

Also Tuesday, a delegation of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group was in Cairo for talks with Egypt’s chief of intelligence, Omar Suleiman, who was expected to press the militant group to end its attacks on Israelis to revive the peace process.

© Associated Press

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail