Haniyeh Aide: Any Future Israel-PA Accord Depends on Hamas

Advisor to former PA premier slams U.S. exclusion of Hamas from talks, says peace deal highly unlikely.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority will never succeed in implementing a permanent political agreement, unless Hamas decides to approve it, adviser to former prime minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah Wednesday told Haaretz.

The adviser, Ahmed Yusef, went on to say that the negotiations between the U.S. and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas hinged on future negotiations between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah. The two rival organizations severed all connections following Hamas' violent seizure of power in the Gaza Strip last June. "Abbas' talks with the U.S. will continue to be no more than 'photo-ops' for as long as Hamas is not involved in the talks," said Yusef.

The adviser indicated Hamas would be willing to engage in a dialogue with the U.S. on any subject Washington desires. "We have no problems discussing issues with the United States or with the Europeans," he said. "There are European officials who are willing to act as mediators, but the Americans are closing all the doors."

In any case, Yusef stressed, the U.S. is wrong to pursue negotiations with Abbas alone, without incorporating Hamas in the talks. "I think the Americans must explore the alternative Palestinian channel, which is Hamas," he said. "They should find out for themselves what our organization stands for. If they choose not to do so, and go ahead with talks without including Hamas, then they must realize that Abbas would ultimately require Hamas' approval for implementing agreements."

Yusef added that any agreement Abbas might eventually sign with Israel will need to be approved either by a national Palestinian referendum, or in a general election. "No such event will take place, unless Hamas authorizes it," he explained. "Hamas is an important regional player and it will continue to be a cardinal player in any sort of political agreement between Israel and the Palestinians."

Yusef also said the Hamas would not agree to engage in diplomatic talks with Israel. "That's what Abbas is concerned with - reaching a permanent agreement with Israel. In reality, he has virtually no chance of achieving his goal, because Israel is not prepared to make significant concessions for the formation of a Palestinian state, and the United States is unwilling to pressure Israel into making these concessions."

Yusef was equally pessimistic about the prospects of the international peace conference that U.S. President George W. Bush announced he was planning for sometime this fall. "This summit has virtually no chance of getting off the ground. It represents nothing more than Washington's desire to secure an achievement in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere, to make up for its failures in Iraq."

Hamas' spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Fauzi Barhoum, echoed Yusef's statements by telling Haaretz that Abbas did not enjoy a sufficient mandate to determine the future of the Palestinian people without consulting Hamas. "Any agreement will necessitate the approval of Parliament, which is dominated by Hamas. First, Abbas will have to renew the dialogue with Hamas and achieve national unity. Only then will we be able to negotiate with foreign powers. Abbas must accept not only Hamas' position, but reach a middle ground with all other groups and organizations."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is visiting Israel as part of her Middle East tour, is slated to meet with Abbas Thursday in the West Bank city of Ramallah.