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Hamas: Recognize Israel? We Won't

The Palestinians' ruling Hamas group will not join a planned coalition government if recognizing Israel is a condition, a close aide to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said Friday.

At the United Nations on Thursday, the moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said the planned national unity government between his Fatah Party and Hamas would recognize the Jewish state.

But Haniyeh's political adviser, Ahmed Yousef, told The Associated Press on Friday that "there won't be a national unity government if Hamas is asked to recognize Israel."

The two parties announced last week that they would team up to govern, in an effort to ease crushing international sanctions imposed on the Hamas government to pressure it to soften its violent anti-Israel ideology.

Their preliminary agreement says the new government would strive to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel - implying recognition of the Jewish state.

But coalition talks have faltered because the West and Israel want Hamas to clearly state its willingness to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Yousef said instead of recognizing Israel, Hamas is prepared to agree to a "long-term truce for five or 10 years, until the occupation withdraws." He was unclear on what Hamas would do if coalition talks break down.

In the past, Hamas has demanded that Israel withdraw from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel rejects that demand.

Abbas told the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting Thursday that the national unity government would abide by all past agreements between the Palestinians and Israel, including letters exchanged by the two sides in 1993 that call for mutual recognition and the renunciation of violence.

Yousef said renouncing violence was a clause of the agreement underlying the planned coalition government.

Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary elections in January and came to power in March. It currently rules alone.

The dispute over diplomatic recognition of the state of Israel came after a week that saw some progress, says CBS News Foreign Affairs analyst Pamela Falk, on a return to the so-called "road map" for peace – "including support for a two-state solution which envisions Israel and Palestine coexisting."

"The core of a return to the road map is the establishment of a unity government and there is still work to be done to get to that point," says Falk, reporting from the U.N. "The speeches by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - and their meeting at the sidelines of the General Assembly session - reflected an optimism that the U.S., the U.N., Russia and the European Union could return to peace negotiations if a government of unity is formed."

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