DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – A senior Hamas official on Wednesday rejected U.S. President George W. Bush’s call for the Palestinian militant group to disarm and recognize Israel, saying it would not change its principles.
“These conditions cannot be accepted and the U.S. president should accept the reality, because the Palestinian people have exercised their democratic choice, with mechanisms that are basically Western, and they chose Hamas,” said Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau.
Bush “should deal with Hamas as it is,” Abu Marzouk told The Associated Press in an interview hours after Bush spelled out the steps that Hamas had to take in his State of the Union address.
“The leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace,” Bush said Tuesday night.
Hamas, which stunned the world by winning a landslide victory in last week’s Palestinian legislative elections, has long refused to recognize Israel, disarm and renounce violence. The Islamic group is responsible for many suicide bombings against Israel and is considered a terrorist organization by Washington.
The United States and the European Union have threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas forms the next government without recognizing Israel and renouncing violence.
“Hamas changes neither its skin nor its principles and it will deal with the West on this basis,” Abu Marzouk said. However, he left open the possibility that Hamas could modify its policies in response to change on Israel’s part.
Referring to Israel, he said: “When it acknowledges (our rights), there would be another talk.” But, he reiterated, “recognizing Israel is not in our minds now, nor are negotiations with Israel.”