Egypt Pressing Hamas to Recognize Jewish State

CAIRO - Egypt and Saudi Arabia are pressing Hamas to adopt the Arab League declaration passed in Beirut in 2002. The declaration includes recognition of the 1967 borders and a just solution to the refugee problem. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak wants to arrange a meeting between interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Mubarak would like the meeting to take place when Olmert arrives in Egypt for a visit.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are not the only countries pressuring Hamas. The Jordanian government announced Tuesday the cancellation of Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar's visit to Jordan. The Jordanian authorities claim Hamas operatives smuggled materiel into Jordan to carry out terrorist attacks. Hamas countered by accusing Jordan of "capitulation" to Israeli-American pressure following the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv three days ago.

Regarding a compromise proposal, an official Egyptian source told Haaretz that the goal is to create two levels of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. "The first, on the level of ongoing activity that includes public services, operating the Palestinian economy and rebuilding the systems needed to run everyday life. The second, the political system, which means strictly maintaining the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and building a mechanism for negotiations through Abu Mazen," he said.

To achieve these objectives, Egypt and Saudi Arabia clearly require a formula that includes Hamas recognizing Israel. "For that to happen, Hamas has to recognize the agreements the PLO signed with Israel, and thereby in effect recognize Israel - even if it does not say so explicitly. Another way is to adopt the Beirut declaration, which also includes recognition of Israel," the official added.

He ventured that such a formula would also be acceptable to the United States and Israel. If Egypt manages to persuade Hamas to adopt the resolutions of the Beirut summit and afterward also the agreements the PA signed with Israel, the source said, it will be possible to establish a coalition of Hamas and Fatah, thereby bolstering the legitimacy of the Palestinian government.

MK Talab al-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al) said yesterday after meeting with Sheikh Mohammed Abu Tir, No. 2 in the Hamas leadership, that Palestinian parliament members "repeatedly voiced to us support for the Saudi initiative that was approved at the Arab League summit in Beirut."

"This is a peace initiative and is really based on mutual recognition. Unilateral decisions by Israel will only deepen hatred," Sana added.

The director of the Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, Dr. Abdel Moneim Said, who is close to Egyptian decision makers, also thinks his country might offer to recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas government if Hamas agrees to recognize agreements signed with Israel. "The condition for this is that Hamas not view monetary contributions from Arab countries as a sign of support for itself as an organization, rather than the Palestinians. Egypt believes it is possible to alter Hamas positions," he said.

Egypt is concerned that donations by Arab and Muslim countries such as Qatar, Iran, Indonesia and perhaps other countries will create the impression that the Hamas government's fiscal problem is being resolved. Such donations might harm the Egyptian-Saudi effort to "reshape" Hamas' stated ideology, and move influence over the group to organizations or countries, such as Iran, which view Hamas as a conduit for disseminating radical Islamic ideology.