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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-325668 Israel/Palestinians (L)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=7/2/2005

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE= ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS (L-Only)

NUMBER=2-325668

BYLINE=ROBERT BERGER

DATELINE=JERUSALEM

CONTENT=

HEADLINE: Palestinian Authority Invites Hamas to Join the Government

INTRO: The Palestinian Authority has invited the Islamic militant group, Hamas, to join the government. But as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel is opposed.

TEXT: Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas asked Hamas to join his Cabinet to help ensure a peaceful Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip next month. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told VOA:

/// EREKAT ACT ///

"He wants all Palestinian political parties to ensure that [the] Gaza disengagement will take place smoothly, peacefully, void of any violence, smooth transition."

/// END ACT ///

Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, which is due to begin in mid-August, 21 Gaza settlements will be dismantled and more than eight-thousand Israelis removed from their homes. Mr. Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, wants to avoid attacks by militants that could torpedo the withdrawal.

/// EREKAT ACT ///

"Abu Mazen's endgame here is to invite everyone under the umbrella of the rule of law, the oneness of the [Palestinian] Authority and the policy of zero tolerance to multiple guns and authorities."

/// END ACT ///

Hamas says it is considering Mr. Abbas's offer. Israel is opposed. Hamas has spearheaded a campaign of suicide bombings that killed hundreds of Israelis during the past four-and-a-half-years of conflict. Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says allowing Hamas to join the Palestinian government is a disgrace.

/// REGEV ACT ///

"Hamas is a terrorist organization that's been responsible for countless acts of indiscriminate violence against Israeli civilians. From our point of view, as Israel, Hamas is part of the problem, it's not part of the solution."

/// END ACT ///

Israel says Mr. Abbas should not be negotiating with terrorists, but rather disarming them, as demanded by the internationally backed "Roadmap" peace plan. But the Palestinian leader fears that confronting Hamas head-on could lead to civil war. He hopes that, if Hamas joins the political process, it will abandon violence. (SIGNED)

NEB/RB/TW



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