Hamas looks at Obama plan 'positively,' with condition

A Hamas official said Thursday that the party would be inclined to accept a U.S. peace plan if the Obama administration's outline includes Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

Yousef Rizka, adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, told China's state-run Xinhua news agency that the Islamic movement, which rules the Gaza Strip and is still in a feud with the internationally recognized Fatah government in the West Bank, said any White House peace plan would be analyzed in terms of "the level of meeting the Palestinian rights."

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"We have an initial readiness to accept it and deal with it positively, but we will also reject it if it doesn't include an American recognition of the Palestinian rights," Rizka told Xinhua.

"The plan should endorse a Palestinian statehood with Jerusalem as its capital," Rizka told Xinhua. "Hamas will take an in-depth study of the plan when it is made public."

Rizka said Hamas would accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel "but only in exchange for a long-term truce" with the Jewish state. "This is a firm position that we can not give up."

The State Department said at its Aug. 3 briefing that it could be "a matter of weeks" before a peace plan is presented by Mideast envoy George Mitchell.

The plan will assuredly reflect the administration's stated push for a two-state solution, even if the details remain a mystery. In his June 4 address to the Muslim world from Cairo, President Barack Obama called the Saudi-backed Arab Peace Initiative "an important beginning," but called upon Arab states to do more to aid Palestinian development and recognize Israel's legitimacy.

The Arab Peace Initiative calls for a withdrawal to 1967 borders, a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a solution to the question of Palestinian refugees. In return, Arab states promise to establish normal relations with Israel.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), on a trip to the Middle East that included 29 Democrats, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that he believed the administration would view a return to 1967 lines as unrealistic.

"I think there is a significant difference between what we are talking about in the West Bank and Jerusalem itself, which is an integrated city; which is a whole," Hoyer said of how Congress views the West Bank and Jerusalem.

"My view is that it will remain whole, and therefore — I don't want to anticipate the endgame — but I don't think the partitioning of Jerusalem is a reasonable outcome," Hoyer said. "I don't think it will happen."

The Obama administration has thus far objected to Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank, as well as a site in eastern Jerusalem where the administration has objected to an Israeli construction project to build 20 apartments.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), leading a Republican delegation to the Middle East last week, said in Jerusalem that the group was "concerned about what the White House has been signaling as of late in their desire to push through in terms of a Middle East peace plan."

Cantor said recognition of Israel as a Jewish state — a non-starter for Palestinian leadership — should be part of the commitments in a peace plan. He also shot down a cornerstone of the Arab Peace Initiative: "The realities on the ground are such that we could never see Israel return back to the '67 lines," Cantor said.