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      PA Foreign Minister: ?No Place? for Israel on Middle East Map

      The Palestinian Authority’s new foreign minister, Mahmoud Al-Zahar of the Hamas told Xinhua, China’s official news agency, that he envisions a map of the Middle East that does not have Israel on it.
      By Scott Shiloh
      First Publish: 4/2/2006, 2:42 PM / Last Update: 4/2/2006, 2:31 PM

      Al-Zahar, who took office last week with the swearing in of the PA’s new Hamas government, said, "I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it."

      Al-Zahar’s statement echoes that of Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which he vowed “to wipe Israel off the map.”

      "I hope…to have our independent state on all historic Palestine (including Israel)," he said.

      The Hamas leader said he was confident his dream would ultimately turn into a reality “because there is no place for the state of Israel on this land.”

      Al-Zahar emphasized that the Hamas opposed any negotiations with the Jewish state, and said the new PA government will reconsider all the previous agreements made between the PA and Israel, claiming those agreements were destroyed by Israel. “Do you want us to repeat the same experience?” he asked the interviewer.

      "Israel wants to negotiate only for the sake of negotiations, but on the ground, it expands settlements and continues building the separation fence on the Palestinian territories," he said.

      "Israel doesn't want peace nor does it have any peace project. Therefore, we should not cheat our people and tell them that there will be negotiations," he added.

      Al-Zahar was pessimistic regarding the possibility of eventually accepting some form of two-state solution to the conflict with Israel, which might at least form the basis for a long-term cease-fire.

      "I want to ask, does Israel believe in the idea of two states?" he said. "Israel is deceiving the international community and it actually wants only a Jewish state and it just hopes to see the Palestinians have an autonomous regime."

      Al-Zahar said the new Hamas cabinet might allow contacts with Israelis on certain occasions, as necessary for the day-to-day affairs of the Arab population it rules, but would not allow talks on the political level.

      The Bush Administration, with the backing of the Quartet (the European Union, the UN, the U.S. and Russia), has been promoting a peace plan, called the “road map” which provides for establishing a peaceful Palestinian state living alongside Israel, as a means for resolving the Arab- Israeli dispute.

      The U.S. had hoped to implement the road map with a PA government led by Fatah, the party of ruling PA head Mahmoud Abbas, which was more amenable to reaching a territorial compromise with Israel.

      One of the conditions for implementing the road map was disarming the various Arab terrorist factions, including Hamas, which periodically launch deadly strikes at Israel from PA controlled territory. Al-Zahar said he opposed disarming Izzadin al-Qassam, the military wing of the Hamas, insisting the new Hamas government would continue supporting terrorist attacks against Israel.

      "Why should we disarm…while the Palestinian territories are still occupied? The people should defend themselves," he said.

      Since the inauguration of the Hamas government, the United States has cut off funds to the PA, and curtailed diplomatic contacts with Hamas PA officials.

      The Hamas, an Arab terror organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction, unexpectedly won a landside victory in PA parliamentary elections held in January.

      Despite Hamas’ role in the murder of hundreds of Israelis since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, Al-Zahar said his organization does not hate Jews. He said Jews as well as Christians would still be able to live in the holy land, but only under the sovereignty of an Islamic state.