CAIRO, Egypt – Two top Egyptian officials called on Hamas to recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals Wednesday, the latest sign Arab governments are pushing the militant group to moderate after its surprise election victory.
Separately, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has told Egyptian officials he would hold off on asking Hamas to form the next Palestinian government until Hamas renounces violence.
The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, cited Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as saying that Abbas had made the decision after a meeting with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.
Suleiman could not immediately be reached to verify the statement. But earlier, he told journalists in Cairo that Egypt intends to tell Hamas leaders that they must recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals. Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections in a landslide last week.
Mubarak's spokesman, Suleiman Awaad, also called on Hamas to recognize peace deals with Israel. Former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "was able to change his position. There is nothing that prevents smart leaders from changing their positions to behave accordingly," Awaad said.
Hamas is under growing international pressure to renounce its violent ideology and recognize Israel's right to exist as a condition for receiving millions of dollars in foreign aid — the lifeline of the Palestinian economy. Western powers have said they will not fund a Hamas-led Palestinian government otherwise.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group was still trying to determine whether Abbas had indeed posed such conditions. "President Abbas said on different occasions that he respects the result of these elections, and all the developments that followed the elections," he said.
And in Damascus, a senior Hamas official said the group would not change its policies toward Israel. "These conditions could not be accepted and the U.S. president should accept reality and facts ... He should deal with Hamas as it is," said Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas' political bureau.
The Hamas statement from Damascus came before the Egyptian officials' comments were made public.
In Cairo, Suleiman cautioned that it may take time to try to change the militant group's positions and may not work.
"Nobody will talk to them before they stop violence, recognize Israel and accept (peace) agreements," Suleiman said. "These are radical people. But we have to try to convince them to change their position. It's still difficult to make them change 180 degrees ... This might take six months or more. We will try."