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Hamas: Unity for elections, not to emulate Fatah

Nov. 12, 2011 1:48 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 13, 2011 7:19 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas will not become a carbon copy of rivals Fatah after their reconciliation deal, but welcomes the prospect of Palestinian elections, senior party official Mahmoud Zahhar said Saturday.

Hamas will not negotiate with Israel, Zahhar said in an Eid al-Adha celebration in Gaza City.

The May deal between Hamas and Fatah sought to end years of animosity between the parties that split Palestinians into rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel refuses to have dealings with any government that includes Hamas, and slammed President Mahmoud Abbas for reconciling with his political adversaries.

The international community has called for Hamas to renounce violence and explicitly recognize Israel's right to exist, formulations adopted by Fatah under late leader Yasser Arafat.

"Those who believe we are seeking reconciliation with Fatah to become a reproduction of Fatah are mistaken," Zahhar said Saturday.

"Our only choice is the path of Islam, and the liberation of Palestine is closer than any time in the past after the many victories we have been achieving."

But Hamas wants elections for the people to be able to choose their representatives, Zahhar said.

The unity deal envisaged the formation of an interim unity government of technocrats with a view to holding presidential and legislative elections within a year. It has yet to be implemented, with Abbas saying he will meet with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal before the end of November.

Zahhar noted the significance of this year's Eid festival, coming at a time when countries across the Arab world have "defeated their oppressors," and after Hamas secured the release of more than 1,000 prisoners in a swap deal with Israel.

"Several Arab and Islamic delegations visited Gaza from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and France" during the holiday, Zahhar added.

Speaking to London-based Al-Hayat newspaper on Saturday Zahhar said Hamas "does not negotiate with Israel directly nor indirectly, however, there were indirect negotiations over the prisoner swap deal for a specific purpose."

Hamas would only hold indirect negotiations with Israel over humanitarian issues such as a bird flu outbreak, Zahhar added.

"What can we negotiate over? Should we repeat Abu Mazen’s unsuccessful experience?" Zahhar asked, referring to the president.

He described reports of possible negotiations between Hamas and Israel as "insane voices and worthless trial balloons."
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