Hamas leaders cast doubt on deal

From: http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/06/27/palestinians.israel.ap/index.html

Palestinian official says factions agree on deal recognizing Israel

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 Posted: 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)

GAZA CITY (AP) -- The rival Hamas and Fatah movements agreed on a plan implicitly recognizing Israel, a top Palestinian official said Tuesday after weeks of acrimonious negotiations aiming to lift crippling international aid sanctions.

But two Syrian-based Hamas leaders denied a final deal had been reached.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Tuesday's agreement between Hamas and the Fatah Party of President Mahmoud Abbas was a "non-starter" because it failed to meet international demands.

The purported agreement was overshadowed by a crisis triggered by militants' abduction of an Israeli soldier.

Moderate President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah has been trying to coax his Hamas rivals into endorsing the document, which calls for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, in effect recognizing the Jewish state.

He has endorsed the plan as a way to end sanctions against the Hamas-led Palestinian government and pave the way to reopening peace talks with Israel.

"We have an agreement over the document," said Ibrahim Abu Najah, coordinator of the "national dialogue" over the proposal.

The plan calls for a Palestinian state alongside Israel and accepts a 2002 proposal endorsed by the Arab League, which offered the possibility of full diplomatic relations with Israel.

It also calls on militants to limit attacks to areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War and calls on the parties to work toward forming a Palestinian unity government.

"Dialogue achieved major progress, and we hope within the next few days we will reach agreement on a joint agenda, but not today," Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official, said in Damascus.

Hamas and Fatah have been locked in a bloody power struggle since Hamas won January's legislative elections. Hamas controls the parliament and Cabinet. Abbas was elected separately last year.

The document was formulated by senior Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Acceptance of the plan would mark a significant concession by Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction and has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings. Still, it falls short of demands by Israel, the United States and Europe that Hamas renounce violence and give full recognition to Israel.

The group has refused to accept those demands, prompting the West to cut off much-needed aid to the Palestinian government. The United States, Israel and European Union list Hamas as a terrorist group.

However, the deal was opposed by Islamic Jihad, a small militant group that also has carried out numerous attacks against Israel.

"In today's meeting, we announced we reject some of the articles of this document and we have reservations about other articles," Islamic Jihad spokesman Khaled al-Batch said.

With Hamas-linked militants holding an Israeli soldier captured Sunday, the Palestinian agreement is even less likely to reduce tensions. Israel has massed troops along its border with Gaza, promising a broad offensive into the area.