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Israel Rejects Hamas Conditions for Long-term Truce

26 February 2006

Israel has rejected the conditions of the Islamic militant group Hamas for a long-term cease-fire. A Hamas leader ruled out recognition of Israel or peace with the Jewish state.

Hamas Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh says the group would agree to a long-term cease-fire with Israel, if it withdraws from all territory captured during the Six Day War in 1967. That means the West Bank and Jerusalem's Old City, which is home to the Western Wall and Temple Mount, the holy sites in Judaism.

Mr. Haniyeh backed away from an interview he gave to The Washington Post, which quoted him as saying that Hamas would recognize Israel, and make "peace in stages," if it gave the Palestinians a state and their rights. That would include the so-called "right of return" - allowing millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their former homes in Israel.

Israel says flooding the country with Palestinian refugees would destroy the Jewish character of the state and amount to national suicide, and it dismissed Mr. Haniyeh's offer outright. Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan:

"One has to be stupid to even seriously consider, if he is making a conciliatory statement," said Dan Schueftan. "What he is saying is that, after Israel is destroyed, namely after the right of return is instituted, and so on, then he will consider to have a long-term truce with Israel. I mean it is a ridiculous statement."

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the Hamas victory in parliamentary elections a month ago has made moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas irrelevant. She said that Mr. Abbas, who is recognized by the international community because he supports the peace process, must not be what she called a fig leaf for a terrorist regime.

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