Hamas announced its plan to turn a synagogue in Netzarim - Israel's abandoned settlement in Gaza - into a museum that would display weapons employed by the terrorist group's members against Israeli civilians.
A statement issued yesterday by Hamas said, "Qassam rockets and other locally made arms will be exposed, since it is the legal weapon that evicted the occupation forces."
The standoff between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which has claimed credit for numerous suicide bombings in Israel, could scuttle parliamentary elections in January as Israel has insisted that no armed terror groups participate in the vote. If Hamas fends off demands that it relinquish its weapons it could set a dangerous precedent in the region as Lebanon moves closer to asserting its sovereignty - and includes Hezbollah in its ruling coalition.
So far, America and its allies have accepted that there is little Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas can do to tame Hamas. On Tuesday the Quartet, a diplomatic group comprising America, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations, released a statement that envisioned the disarming of Hamas in phases and not necessarily as a precondition for its participation in parliamentary elections on January 25.
"We also agreed that ultimately those who want to be part of the political process should not engage in armed group or militia activities," the joint statement said. "For there is a fundamental contradiction between such activities and the building of a democratic state."
The inclusion of the modifier, "ultimately," could pave the way for Hamas to run candidates and join the government even if it keeps its weapons. Israeli officials have been pressing America, Europe, and the United Nations to require the Palestinian Authority to disarm Hamas and the Palestinian Arab armed terrorist organizations.
Secretary of State Rice suggested in an interview published this week in Time magazine that the Palestinian Authority focus on disarming Fatah-based militias for now and suggested that Hamas be dealt with later.
Mr. Bush has not specified whether Hamas must disarm. Speaking to the Jewish Republican Coalition yesterday, he said that the Palestinian Authority was unifying its security services, New York Sun reports.