PMO: New PA Stance 'Flies in the Face' of International Demands

Hamas: New gov't backs 'resistance,' right of return; Israeli official: Platform 'step backward' for peace process.

The platform of the new Palestinian unity government, which according to Hamas advocates continued violence against occupation, is a step backward from the peace process and "flies in the face" of the international community's demands, the Prime Minister's Office said Thursday.

"Instead of recognizing Israel and renouncing terror the emerging Palestinian government has decided to spring backwards," said David Baker, spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office.

"This is not what we were hoping for and flies in the face of the international community's demands of the Palestinians. Once again, they haven't provided the goods," he added.

According to excerpts from the new government's platform, published Thursday on two Hamas Web sites, the new government will continue to support "resistance" until the occupation ends, as well as uphold call for the right of return for Palestinians refugees.

The new government will also "respect" previous agreements with Israel, as stated in the Mecca agreement that led to its formation.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Thursday presented the final cabinet list to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, a day after the two agreed on the make-up of the new government, ending weeks of arguments over the candidate for the powerful interior ministry post.

"I have handed over to the president the candidates for the new coalition. He has accepted that," Haniyeh said. "We are optimistic the government will open a new era."

In the first Israeli response to the government's platform, a senior official called it a major step backward for peace prospects, and said Jerusalem would lobby the international community not to work with the new government.

The Quartet of Middle East peace brokers - the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia - has called for the new PA government to abide by three demands: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and agreement to honor previous accords.

Haniyeh said Thursday, however, he has received signals that the Europeans are ready to work with his new government, but acknowledged that winning U.S. and Israeli support would be difficult.

"No doubt there is a different position by the American administration and the Israelis," he said. "We are going to do what we can to support national unity, and to remove the siege and to maintain relations with the international community."

The full cabinet line-up will be submitted Saturday for parliamentary approval.

According to Hamas, the new platform states that, "The government confirms that the resistance is a legitimate right for the Palestinian people."

It goes onto say that, "halting resistance depends on ending the occupation and achieving freedom and [the right of] return and independence."

Nonetheless the platform states, "The government abides by the protection of the higher national interests of the Palestinian people, and the protection of its rights ... on the basis of that, respects international resolutions and agreements signed by the PLO."

The new government, Hamas says, also recognizes that "the key to security and stability in the region is in the ending of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, recognition of the right to Palestinian self-determination."

To that end, the manifesto states, "the government will work with the international community to end the occupation, and to return the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people."

The platform also touches on one of the key sticking points in negotiations between the two sides - the issue of Palestinian refugees.

According to Hamas, the government "holds fast to the rights of Palestinian refugees, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their land and belongings."

But, said the Israeli official, "anyone who looks carefully at the document will see that there is a regression on a number of important issues."

He noted the platform's call for the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel and its affirmation of the Palestinian right of resistance against Israel.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because an official government statement has not been released, said the language is even tougher than the original Palestinian power-sharing deal reached in Mecca last month. "This is not a step forward. It's a step backward," he said.

Also Thursday, Army Radio reported that Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman has called for an emergency government to be formed comprising all Zionist parties, in an effort to counter the establishment of the new Palestinian unity government.

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