The referendum would ask Palestinians whether they accept a document that was drawn up by Fatah and Hamas leaders imprisoned in Israel and that endorses a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

The document would amount to a recognition of Israel's right to exist, a major stumbling block for relations between the Hamas-led government and the United States and European Union.

Hamas, elected to power in January, has refused to recognise Israel, and the US and EU have cut aid until Hamas reverses this stance, gives up armed struggle and accepts past deals signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Since Hamas took office in March, Israel has frozen tax revenues to the Authority, amounting to $52 million a month, and has closed Palestinian borders, leading to shortages in food and medicine and a halt in exports.

Salaries for about 130,000 Palestinian public servants have gone unpaid.

Aljazeera.net spoke with eight Palestinians about their views, asking whether they think Hamas should recognise Israel's right to exist and under what conditions.

Mariam Om Ibrahim al-Kurd, 82, refugee

I think Hamas should stand firm

Please tell me, why should I recognise Israel?

Does it recognise my right to return to the land they expelled me from in the middle of the night - the same land they want me to recognise now as theirs?

I think Hamas should stand firm by its principals, and I am confident God will make them victorious, because they have only the interests of the people at heart, not themselves like those cowards before them.

Maha Banna, 32, schoolteacher

Israel ... doesn't need  anyone to
recognise its existence

The previous government recognised Israel and it achieved nothing. It's simply another way to prove that [Israel] gets what it wants, when it wants.

Besides, Israel exists already - it doesn't need anyone to recognise its existence. And for them to set borders unilaterally - that in and of itself is not recognising our right to exist.

I don't think whether they acknowledge Israel or not will make a difference. …

While money is a problem right now, people don't want Hamas to compromise more politics. Playing with words is not up to them, it's up to the PLO. 

Hasan Nakhala, 35, shopkeeper

People have no money to buy
anymore

Hamas should leave power - they aren't accounting for all these difficulties in society, nor the realities on the ground.

I buy merchandise every week, but I'm not selling anything. People have no money to buy anymore. They are selling their gold and other belongings in order to buy food for their families.

I deal with Israelis every day in my trade - this is my reality. So I know they exist. 

Besides, didn't Hamas recognise the PLO and follow its path? And didn't the PLO recognise Israel? There is no alternative solution.

Saeed Abo Salah, 40, farmer

I would say 'yes' only after
conditions are met

What did recognition bring us?

We've been through 10 years of negotiations and yesses for nothing.

All American initiatives have failed. Oslo was merely institutionalised occupation. So now we give them one more "yes" for what? To continue with their annexation plan in the West, to continue and choke us here in Gaza? 

I would say "yes" to recognition in a referendum only after certain conditions are met. They need to recognise our rights first.

Basma Ghalayini, 22, university student

People are making do now, but
later they might not be able to

I think that we have to recognise Israel because they have tied our recognition of them with a lot of other things - like blocking aid to us. It's not the ideal solution, but it's the practical solution. …

People are making do now, but later they might not be able to. And if they do recognise Israel, it won't have any meaning anyway - it'll be recognition under duress. 

Ali Murad, 26, national security officer

Aid should not be conditional

There is no other way other than the resistance. Hamas should not recognise Israel.

Salaries are essential, yes, and I as a human being and employee of the government along with thousands of others are not receiving them. But we should not link the two issues.

Aid should not be conditional.

For 12 years we have been negotiating, only to get destruction and grief in return. …

I think the alternative is that Israel should present us with a solution, because the ball is in their court now, not ours. They need to end their occupation of our land. 

Hashim al-Hussaini, 28, economist

If Hamas wants to stay in power
... they have to be pragmatic

I think it is essential for matters to go forward that the government recognises Israel.  They have to recognise the current agreement so that, for example, the tax revenue clearance can be resumed. If Hamas wants to stay in power, knowing that there are external and internal pressures, they have to be pragmatic.

If you want to stay in politics, you have to play the game - it means you do have basics and fundamentals that you keep to, but on the other hand, you can keep true to your principles. However, you are taking charge of four million people, so you have to bear in mind that you represent their interests and if that means recognising Israel, then you do it. 

We are not saying that you concede a Palestinian state, you just have to keep in mind that you are not just representing Hamas. 

Muhammad Dabbagh, 22, taxi driver

This option [recognising Israel]
will not happen

I think Hamas has one of three choices: They can step down, since it's what everyone on the outside wants, including the Arab states. They can call for a re-election, since no one will vote for them again (they regret it and learned their lesson). Or, thirdly, the cabinet is restructured to include ministers from Fatah. Or of course, they can just recognise Israel. 

They say it accomplished nothing, but this is not true. It did accomplish things, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant. But it's against their principles, and so this option will not happen.

Marwan Diab, 37, public relations officer

I see no problem recognising
Israel

I don't think it's a good idea, because if Hamas were to recognise Israel, at that point we will have lost all of our cards.

From previous experiences, we've learned that Israel has often said we would like this to happen and that to happen, but they themselves never have to give anything up. We are always giving up things, but they are never giving us anything in exchange.

And if we were to give up this card, it's a problem. We'll have lost everything.

But in a comprehensive peace settlement, in the context of a just solution to the Palestinian problem as a whole - a peaceful solution that will result in ending the occupation and establishing our own state, I see no problem in recognising Israel.