Egypt, Qatar Continue Attempts to Persuade Hamas

Egypt and Qatar have used both public and private forums in recent days to influence the Palestinian Authority's Hamas leadership to accept proposals for internal PA unity and compromise.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, | updated: 19:24

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin-Jassem Al-Thani met with refusal on the part of the Hamas leadership in Gaza on Tuesday to consider a new PA unity initiative that would include recognition of Israel's right to exist, which would also pave the way for renewed diplomatic contacts and international funding.

The Qatari minister met with both PA prime minister and Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and PA president and Fatah faction leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) over the past two days. Al-Thani told reporters in Gaza that part of the problem with reaching an agreement was differences between Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and the local PA Hamas leadership.

However, a spokesman for the Hamas terrorist organization in the PA, Ghazi Hamad, told reporters on Tuesday that Hamas still refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist or to renounce violence, two of the three demands by the Quartet sponsoring the Road Map to Peace plan. The third demand is for the current PA government to uphold previously signed agreements.

In reaction to the Hamas refusal to compromise, Abu Mazen once again threatened Tuesday to call early elections in the PA.

Hamas also rejected a similar proposal put forward previously by Egyptian officials.

On Tuesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit was quoted by the Egyptian Al-Ahram newspaper as saying that Palestinian Authority leaders will destroy their chances for talks with Israel if they cannot end the fighting between the Fatah and Hamas factions. PA Prime Minister Haniyeh was especially criticized by Abul-Gheit for his Hamas faction's rejection of the Qatari proposal.

Abul-Gheit pointed out that Haniyeh could consider other initiatives, if he chooses not to accept the current proposal, but that he has not done so. He added that freeing kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit in return for 1,000 Arab prisoners would be the first step in renewing high-level talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. A potential diplomatic relationship between Israel and the PA, Abul-Gheit said, was "not dead."

International funding to the PA dried up after Hamas took over the government in a landslide victory in January, plunging the government and its thousands of workers into an economic crisis that continues to grow.