Any agreement the Palestinian Authority might reach with Israel would be subject to significant changes, a senior Hamas official has told the American newspaper The Forward.
Moussa Abu Marzouk said in an interview to be published Friday that if Hamas came to power, any treaty would be an interim truce, a hudna, not a permanent accord. This would be the case even if a referendum ratified the deal.
Marzouk's statements reflect a harder line than the stance of the group's political leader, Khaled Meshal, who is seen as Marzouk's main rival.
Meshal has repeatedly said Hamas would honor any agreement signed between the PA and Israel if the Palestinian people supported it.
Marzouk told The Forward there is no sign of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas on setting up a unity government.
Marzouk opposed Meshal's recent efforts to achieve a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. According to an agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would serve as prime minister of a caretaker government until elections for the president and parliament.
But Marzouk and two top Hamas leaders in Gaza - Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar - objected. Zahar even said Meshal had reached the agreement without consulting the other members of the leadership.
In recent weeks, Hamas has held a number of election campaigns for the group's political bureau - in Gaza, in prisons and in regional councils abroad.
Marzouk's statements are seen as a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to advance the peace talks with the PA, because he can only "do business" with Hamas.
Hamas' leaders and the Israeli government appear to agree it is impossible to solve the conflict at the moment, only to manage it.
The Forward's assistant managing editor, Larry Cohler-Esses, met Marzouk in Cairo, where the Hamas leader moved after leaving Damascus.
Marzouk, 61, said his organization would not recognize Israel as a state. "It will be like the relationship between Lebanon and Israel or Syria and Israel," he said. This means a cease-fire rather than a peace treaty as Israel has with Jordan or Egypt.
Cohler-Esses told Haaretz the interview had been arranged by the Hamas official's American attorney Stanley Cohen.
"On a personal level he was very interesting with a sense of humor. But I was certainly not optimistic after the things he said," Cohler-Esses said.
He said it was hard say who Marzouk was targeting with his comments, noting that Marzouk would be running in elections. Cohler-Esses said he sometimes "wondered if he was talking only to me or to his Shura council" - Hamas' political and decision-making body.
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