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Under pressure, Hamas offers Israel truce talks

The Hamas leaders' proposal, coming after an Israeli attack killed 12 militants in Gaza Tuesday, was met with skepticism on both sides.

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The Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli President Shimon Peres made it clear that he would oppose talks.

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Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's announcement that his group is willing to hold cease-fire negotiations with Israel is a "pathetic and misleading attempt to divert international attention away from the crimes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad," President Shimon Peres announced Wednesday.
"If Hamas and Islamic Jihad stop firing rockets at our women and children, Israel will immediately hold its fire, so there is no need for negotiations," Peres said in a press release.
Right-wing (members of parliament) were enraged by Mofaz's remarks.
"When the entire world is boycotting Hamas, should we be the ones to talk to it?" said Likud (MP) Silvan Shalom.
"It would quite simply be a terrible mistake," continued Shalom. "Hamas will exploit this period of negotiations to restore its capabilities and continue smuggling weapons. We need to do everything in order to bring about a cessation in Kassam attacks, not through dialogue but through action."

Meanwhile. Reuters reports that the Israeli housing ministry is considering authorizing the construction of new Israel homes on occupied land near Jerusalem, though the government spokesman described the plan as very preliminary.

The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and possible construction of new ones has been a major stumbling block in peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, which controls the West Bank.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Israeli settlement expansion will "destroy the peace process and must be stopped." Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams plan to hold their second round of talks on Dec 23 or 24.
Israeli Construction and Housing Minister Zeev Boim played down the proposal to build new homes near what Israel refers to as Atarot and the Palestinians call Qalandia in the West Bank.
Boim told Army Radio the housing proposal was only in the conceptual stage. A senior Israeli official said the Housing Ministry has "all sorts of contingency plans" that go nowhere.

Writing in Lebanon's Daily Star, Rami Khouri warns that while Hamas may appear to be on the backfoot, with European governments pledging billions in aid to the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, the movement is still resilient; particularly because of Palestinian skepticism about new peace efforts launched at a conference in Annapolis, Md., earlier this month. He cited a new public opinion poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research that suggested that "supporting the Abbas-Fatah government financially was unlikely to pummel Hamas into political submission."

The poll showed that a lack of confidence in the Annapolis process was keeping support for Hamas (31 percent) and Fatah (49 percent) at levels almost identical to those of September.