- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2006

TEL AVIV — The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which represented all Palestinians, including those in exile, in the Oslo peace accords with Israel, yesterday rejected policy guidelines of the new Hamas, which refuses to negotiate with the Jewish state.

At a meeting in Ramallah, the executive committee of the PLO authorized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dismiss Hamas Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh if his government persists in its rejection of the peace process.

Mr. Abbas will not block the inauguration of the Hamas government, which is expected to come before the parliament for confirmation Monday, and expects the Islamic militants to accept his policy of peace negotiations after they settle into government, a senior Palestinian negotiator said.

“He will give them a chance. While in office, he hopes they will realize how essential it is for them to accept his program,” said negotiator Saeb Erekat. “He hopes he will not have to use his constitutional powers” that permit the president to dismiss the prime minister.

Before Hamas captured a majority of the Palestinian parliament in a Jan. 25 landslide election, Mr. Abbas had declared that he would not approve any Cabinet that failed to support his position on peace negotiations.

When the Palestinian parliament first convened after the election, he mentioned two more conditions: an end to underground militias and acceptance of international commitments.

The Cabinet ministers are expected to be sworn in next Thursday.

The evolving conflict highlights the unresolved tension between the PLO, which brought the fight for Palestinian statehood to world attention under Yasser Arafat, and Hamas, an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood that was set up to challenge the secular nationalist movement.

The PLO, which calls itself the “sole legitimate” representative of Palestinians inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in the diaspora, considers itself a parent institution of the Palestinian Authority, which was set up as a self-rule government under the Oslo accords.

Hamas’ refusal to recognize the PLO in the policy guidelines of the new government was seen as an insult.

Hamas officials say they cannot acknowledge the PLO because it has recognized the Jewish state. The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

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