White House Pressures Hamas to Recognize Israel, Renounce Terrorism

The Bush administration on Thursday pressured the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority anew to recognize Israel and renounce terrorism, and said any country dealing with Hamas should urge it to become a partner in stalled peace negotiations.

The United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — the so-called Quartet that have sponsored a peace plan known as the road map — have spelled out their demands of Hamas, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Thursday ahead of President Bush's speech at the American Jewish Committee's centennial dinner.

"They need to renounce terror and violence," McClellan said of the militant Palestinian group the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. "They need to recognize Israel's right to exist. And they need to renew the commitment, previously, of the Palestinian Authority to move forward on the peace process.

"If countries are meeting with Hamas, they ought to be reiterating the importance of Hamas making the right choice to agree to follow what the Quartet called for," he said.

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. hopes there will be a time when all parties can return to negotiating borders between Israel and the Palestinians. "But unfortunately, there is, on the Palestinian side in terms of the government, not a partner for peace," McCormack said.

Israel's new government took office on Thursday, bringing incoming Prime Minister Ehud Olmert a step closer to implementing his plan of withdrawing from parts of the West Bank and redrawing Israel's borders by 2010.

The plan, which would leave Israel with three main blocs of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, is to be carried out unilaterally if the Hamas-led Palestinian Cabinet refuses to recognize Israel, accept past peace agreements and renounce violence — conditions Israel has set for talking to the militant Islamic group.

Israel has said it will give Hamas time to agree to international demands to recognize Israel, accept past peace deals and renounce violence. But more than a month into its reign, Hamas has rejected the demands, Israel has cut off all ties with what it has labeled an enemy entity and it appears increasingly likely the Jewish state will draw its borders on its own.