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Hamas rejects Abbas' border plan deadline

Palestinian state proposal would effectively recognize Israel

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The Hamas-led Palestinian government has rejected the 10-day deadline set by President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a plan for a Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel, according to the prime minister's office.

A representative for Palestinian Prime Minister's Ismail Haniya's office said Hamas, however, is open to a dialogue to reach a national consensus on issues facing Palestinians.

Abbas, a member of the Fatah party, on Thursday gave his rivals 10 days to accept a plan that calls for the areas captured by Israel in the 1967 war -- including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem -- to compose the Palestinian state. (Full story)

Hamas, which has historically vowed to seek the destruction of Israel, took control of the Palestinian Authority from Fatah after a surprise election win in January.

The Hamas government has rejected international demands that it recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim peace deals.

Abbas' plan would be a de facto recognition of Israel's existence. If Hamas rejects the proposal, Abbas said he would call for a national referendum on the question, to be held 40 days later.

The border plan was drawn up by Palestinian prisoners from Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- all being held in Israeli prisons, Abbas said. Analysts believe Hamas will allow the "prisoners' referendum" to go forward because it would allow the political party to moderate its position by ceding to the will of the people, without changing the platform on which it was elected.

Hamas' stance against Israel has led to the economic isolation of the Palestinian Authority, which is largely reliant on international aid.

The United States, the European Union and Canada have cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas took power. Israel has stopped turning over taxes it collects on the authority's behalf.

The result has been a deepening economic crisis in the West Bank and Gaza.

Support in polls

Recent opinion polls show most Palestinians support a state drawn along the lines of the 1967 borders. However, the plan is expected to be met with opposition from Israel, which has refused to cede any of Jerusalem as part of a Palestinian state.

Israel has unilaterally withdrawn Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian territories Israel has occupied since the 1967 Mideast war.

But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's "realignment" plan would incorporate into Israel the major population centers of Samaria and Judea in the West Bank, which are outside the 1967 borders.

Olmert is expected to meet with Abbas soon, but has vowed to move forward with setting Israel's permanent borders in the next three to four years, with or without a Palestinian partner.

Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and European Union. But the United States has said it would reinstate aid to the Hamas-led government if Hamas recognizes Israel's right to exist and renounces acts of terrorism.

In an attempt to further isolate Hamas, the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday passed a resolution that would bar all dealings with Hamas -- including restrictions on private aid money to Palestinians.

The White House opposes the House resolution -- which also would deny U.S. visas to any members of the Palestinian Authority -- saying it would have a negative effect on Mideast diplomacy.

Hamas patrols

Hamas security forces were back on the streets Saturday in some areas of Gaza considered to be Hamas neighborhoods.

However, they were not in the numbers seen before Abbas and Haniya addressed a Palestinian national dialogue meeting Thursday in Ramallah.

A high-ranking militia member affiliated with Hamas told CNN on Friday that he withdrew his troops from the streets of Gaza City to "special temporary bases."

CNN's Ben Wedeman in Gaza City contributed to this report

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