Ismail Haniyeh: "I Never Sent Anyone on a Suicide Mission"

Hamas leader and Palestinian prime minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh told a U.S. television station Thursday that he has never personally ordered a terrorist action against Israel and that he hopes to ultimately reach a peace deal with Israel.

`I`ve never sent anyone on a suicide mission,` he told CBS News. `If one of my sons came to me and asked me that, I wouldn`t even consider giving him my blessing.`

CBS quoted Israeli officials as saying they have no evidence connecting Haniyeh to any terror attacks. However, Haniyeh is a senior official in Hamas, which has ordered many terror attacks, is responsible for scores of Israeli deaths and pledges to destroy Israel.

When asked if he could foresee being invited to the White House to sign a peace agreement with Israel, Haniyeh responded, `Let`s hope so.`

He told CBS that a renunciation of violence and recognition of Israel`s right to exist `depends on Israel`s recognition of a Palestinian state within the boundaries of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.` He said, `Only then can there be room for talks.`

Hamas to present cabinet to Abbas

Hamas is slated to present its cabinet to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday and bring it to the Palestinian parliament for approval Monday, Hamas representatives in Gaza said Thursday.

The announcement came after talks Thursday with small parliamentary factions, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Third Way (headed by former finance minister Salam Fayad), the Alternative List (Badil, a combination of three small left-wing parties) and Independent Palestine (headed by Mustafa Barghouti). The Hamas officials said they were still hoping the factions would agree to join the government.

The factions` apparent refusal to join a Hamas-led government indicates that the changes Hamas has made to its proposed basic principles of gove! rnment are insufficient. Hamas has already submitted three draft propo sals to the factions.

The first draft proposal discussed considering negotiations with Israel only if the latter first recognizes the rights of the Palestinian people and guarantees a full withdrawal to 1967 lines.

Fatah has said it cannot join a government that does not accept the `strategic` principle of negotiating with Israel, and Fayad has said he will not join a government without Fatah.

Other factions did not insist on negotiations, but wanted the basic principles to mention the Palestine Liberation Organization and its status as the representative of the Palestinian people, as well as the international decisions regarding a resolution of the conflict and a Palestinian state.

Fatah and Independent Palestine also want a mention of the 1988 PLO`s declaration of independence, which, like the international decisions, imply recognition of Israel.

AMIRA HASS writes for Ha’aretz. She is the author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza.