Israel says it won't cooperate with Palestinian elections, a move that could put the landmark January vote in jeopardy. The Palestinians are accusing Israel of meddling in their affairs.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says Israel won't facilitate Palestinian elections because of the participation of the Islamic militant group Hamas. Speaking to the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Mr. Sharon said Hamas is a terrorist organization and it should have no place in the democratic process. He said Israel will not ease roadblocks in the West Bank and will make it difficult for Hamas to campaign freely.
Committee member Effi Eitam said Hamas participation in elections does not serve the cause of peace. "It's very much like the idea that the Americans will allow al-Qaida to participate in the election in Iraq. It's impossible. And at the end of the day, I'm very much worrying that we shall be witnessing the Hamas as the next leadership of the Palestinian Authority."
Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel and is responsible for dozens of deadly suicide bombings. But the Palestinian Authority hopes that by taking part in elections, the group will abandon violence and become a political party.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told VOA that the participation of Hamas is an internal Palestinian affair. "Palestinian legislative elections on the 25th of January, 2006, must take place without any interference from Israel or anybody else."
On another front, Prime Minister Sharon ruled out renewing peace talks with Syria, which broke down five years ago. Syrian President Bashar Assad has expressed interest in opening talks, but Mr. Sharon indicated that Israel has no intention of relinquishing the strategic Golan Heights, captured from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967. Mr. Sharon said past negotiations on an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan were a "grave mistake."