Hamas: Israeli Policies Remain Hostile

The militant group Hamas on Wednesday dismissed Israel's election results as another face of Israeli policy designed to eliminate the Palestinian issue, while other Arabs warned the Jewish state about taking unilateral action.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's centrist Kadima party picked up 28 seats in Tuesday's vote for the Knesset's 120 seats. Party officials said he should be able to cobble together a parliamentary majority for his plan to pull out of much of the West Bank and draw Israel's borders by 2010.

Such unilateral action has been criticized by the Arabs, and a summit of Arab leaders that ended Wednesday in Sudan collectively rejected such moves while repeating its commitment to an 2002 Arab peace initiative based on trading land for peace.

But a sharp reaction came from the political leader of Hamas, the militant group that swept Palestinian legislative elections in January and formed the Palestinian government. The group has rejected international pressure to reverse its decision not to recognize Israel's right to exist.

"I believe, regardless of who had won in the elections, the Zionist position altogether, particularly that of the three parties (Kadima, Labor and Likud), is hostile toward Palestinian rights and insists on liquidating it and wiping it out," Khaled Mashaal told The Associated Press in Damascus, Syria.

Mashaal said all the top Israeli parties refuse the following Palestinian demands: to give up Arab parts of Jerusalem, to withdraw to the borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, to grant Palestinian refugees the right of return, and to dismantle main Jewish settlements.

"Consequently, the Zionist position, be it that of Kadima or others, is one that buries the peace process, negates its existence and does not give it a chance. That position is a declaration of war against the Palestinian people," he added.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa told reporters at the annual Arab summit in Khartoum, Sudan, that it was doubtful the elections would bring anything new.

"The Arab world must study all its options. Because it is absolutely out of the question to accept ... unilateral withdrawals according to Israeli whims. This just doesn't work, and it can only worsen the situation," Moussa said.

Syria, the most hard-line of the Arab states on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, also insisted on a comprehensive settlement involving Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, the Arab-populated sector of east Jerusalem and Golan Heights, which Damascus lost to Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

"We were expecting (the election results)," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said in Sudan. "But it's important to have a comprehensive withdrawal from the lands occupied in 1967."

Egypt, the first Arab country to have peace with Israel and one of only two Arab states to sign a treaty with the Jewish state, chose not to immediately take a stand on the vote. However, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit warned Israel against making unilateral moves.

"The coming Israeli government must stay away from unilateral measures and move toward peace according to the Arab initiative," he said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also at the summit, said the results would have little effect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unless Olmert changes his policies. "We want negotiations and not to dictate unilateral solutions," he said.

Hamas, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, was set to swear its new government into office later Wednesday. Hamas opposes peace talks and has rejected international calls to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Al-Jazeera television that he also opposed Olmert's withdrawal plan. "Such a plan definitely won't be accepted by the Palestinian people or the Palestinian government," he said.

The Arab League states' joint declaration at the summit reaffirmed that the Palestinian Authority "is a full partner in the peace process." The Arab leaders also renewed their commitment to the 2002 Arab peace initiative, adopted at a summit in Beirut, which offered Israel a comprehensive peace in return for withdrawal from all occupied Arab lands.