Hamas edges toward tacit acceptance of Israel
Israel slams door on any dialogue with Palestinians after a deal with Hamas.
Jerusalem: Even as Israel slammed the door on any dialogue with the Palestinians after a unity deal with Hamas, the Islamic group has been slowly inching its way toward a tacit acceptance of Israel.
Despite being officially dedicated to "liberating all of Palestine”, in recent days Hamas leaders have spoken of accepting a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, effectively alongside Israel.
Speaking to a news agency in Cairo on Thursday, a day after the ceremony to sign the surprise reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said there was a broad consensus on the 1967 borders among Palestinian groups.
Hamas "agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, without settlers and without giving up the right of return," he said.
That implies, at least initially, a tacit acceptance of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
He made a similar statement at Wednesday`s signing ceremony.
And while Hamas has indicated it would support such a position in the past, such public, high profile endorsements give it added gravitas.
"There is a consensus on it among the majority of Palestinian political forces, which can be the basis on which to build," Meshaal said, calling for the development of a "common vision”.
But a tacit nod to Israel`s existence is not enough for the Jewish state, which has said it will not have any dealings with a Palestinian government that embraces Hamas unless it renounces violence and explicitly recognises Israel.
"If (Palestinian) national unity is unity for peace, then we would be the first to support it," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday after meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.
"But if it`s unity to move away from peace, pursue the battle for Israel`s eradication, then obviously we oppose it and so should everyone else."
Netanyahu has been meeting European leaders in a bid to convince them not to support a unilateral declaration of statehood from the Palestinians and to oppose the unity deal for co-opting Hamas.
Some European leaders, including Sarkozy, have warned that they might recognise Palestinian statehood without waiting for a comprehensive peace deal, and a UN resolution to confirm it.
"If Hamas adopted positions of peace in the unity government I would say great, let`s negotiate," Netanyahu said in an interview with CNN. "But in fact the opposite has happened."
European leaders reportedly told Netanyahu they endorsed the conditions for dealing with Hamas -- first laid out by Quartet of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.
But they also indicated they were willing to give the new Palestinian government time to prove itself.
Meshaal rejected Netanyahu`s stance, saying the Israeli leader was using it as another excuse to avoid real peace talks.
"When we were divided Netanyahu did not give Abu Mazen (Abbas) or the Palestinian Authority anything and I am sure that after the unity he will give us nothing," he said.
Peace talks between Israel and Abbas ground to a halt weeks after they began in September when Israel refused to renew a partial halt on West Bank settlement construction.
The Palestinians said they would not continue talks as long as Israel was building on land they want for a promised state.
"We have nothing to lose and we don`t expect anything else from Netanyahu," Meshaal said.