The Palestinians' ruling Hamas group will not enter into a planned coalition government if recognizing Israel is a condition, top Hamas officials said Friday, raising new doubts about President Mahmoud Abbas' ability to bring a more moderate government to power.
"I personally will not head any government that recognizes Israel," Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said in a mosque sermon in Gaza City on Friday, laying out his group's positions.
At the United Nations on Thursday, Abbas indicated that the planned national unity government between Hamas and his Fatah Party would recognize the Jewish state.
However, Haniyeh said Hamas is ready to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War, and to honor a long-term truce with Israel.
"We support establishing a Palestinian state in the land of 1967 at this stage, but in return for a cease-fire, not recognition," Haniyeh said.
In other developments:
Abbas was still in New York on Friday, and couldn't be immediately reached for comment. A close adviser, Nabil Amr, clarified that the Palestinian president would not ask Hamas to explicitly recognize Israel, but to abide by Palestine Liberation Organization agreements that recognize the Jewish state.
"We expect Hamas to agree to this," Amr said.
Hamas, which swept Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, currently rules alone. But Abbas, elected separately last year, has been toiling for months to broaden the government in the hope of easing crushing international sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led government to force it to soften its violent anti-Israel ideology.
Last week, the two sides announced they would govern together, and strive to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel — an objective that implies recognition of the Jewish state.
But coalition talks have faltered because the West and Israel have balked at restoring hundreds of millions of dollars in funding until Hamas clearly states its willingness to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
Abbas told a U.N. forum on Thursday that the national unity government would commit to 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.
There was definite progress on the so-called "road map" for peace during the U.N. session, says CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk.
"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 Quartet, which includes the U.S., the U.N., Russia and the European Union, could return to peace negotiations if a government of unity is formed," Falk said.
But "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," she added.
Officials from both Fatah and Hamas said privately Friday that it wasn't clear whether Abbas' speech was meant to solicit international support for the planned government, or a new condition to forming a coalition with Hamas.
In agreeing to form a coalition with Fatah, Hamas had agreed to "respect" past agreements, but didn't commit to them, calling into question Abbas' ability to maneuver in any future peacemaking. Hamas is afraid that committing to past agreements would be tantamount to recognizing Israel, which it is sworn to destroy.
Yousef said instead of recognizing Israel, Hamas was prepared to agree to a "long-term truce for five or 10 years, until the occupation withdraws."
In the past, Hamas has offered a long-term truce in exchange for an Israeli commitment to withdraw from all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel rejects that demand.
Earlier, Haniyeh's political adviser, Ahmed Yousef, told the Associated Press that renouncing violence was a clause of the agreement underlying the planned coalition government. He was unclear on what Hamas would do if coalition talks break down.
A spokesman for the Hamas-led government, Ghazi Hamad, said the group would ask Abbas to clarify his remarks after he returns from his trip.
Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin reiterated Israel's demand that any Palestinian government yield to the demands the international community has imposed.