PA Roadmap for Hamas to Run in Elections

PA negotiator Saeb Erekat told Israeli television that Hamas' running in elections is tantamount to giving up weapons. Bush referred to terrorists as "armed street gangs" but did not note Hamas.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 12:39

At Thursday's press conference with American President George W. Bush, Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) stated that all Arab groups would be allowed to participate in the upcoming PA elections. The vote for PA legislators originally was scheduled for this past summer but was postponed to January because of fears in the PA that Hamas would win a significant portion of seats. Recent polls show its popularity remains stable, with about one-third support.

Erekat told Channel 2 television, "No one can use guns and no one can incite verbally and no one can use mosques. So the election law provides that those persons and those factions who run for elections must understand that only through peaceful means can they make changes."

Bush said he opposed armed terrorists from running, but added that the matter is an internal PA affair. According to American law, foreign aid cannot be funneled to outlawed terrorist organizations. A coalition PA-Hamas government would place in question the American aid to the PA.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor party, said that Hamas must not be allowed to run without first disarming. Yossi Beilin, leader of the Meretz/Yahad party, told the Middle East Institute in Washington this week that the PA and Israel have no choice but to deal with Hamas as a reality, despite the United States' designation of the group as an outlawed terrorist organization.

Hamas leaders accused Bush of trying to incite a civil war between its organization and the PA. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Bush's demand for a crackdown on terrorists was a "serious American interference in our internal affairs aimed to create an internal conflict."