Celebrations over the weekend by Hamas in Gaza for its 25th anniversary turned into a hate fest against Israel, in which the true colors of the Islamist terrorist organization were on show.

The highlight of Hamas’s opera was the triumphal appearance in Gaza for the first time of its star-in-exile, Khaled Mashaal. Addressing masses of supporters holding green Hamas flags at a rally in Gaza City on Saturday, Mashaal pledged to liberate the entire land of “Palestine, from the river to the sea, from the north to the south.”

“We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation,” he declared.

In response, the crowd chanted, according to Reuters: “Oh dear Mashaal, your army struck Tel Aviv,” referring to the rockets Hamas fired at the city during last month’s Operation Pillar of Defense, and then beseeched: “Do it again, hit Haifa next time!” Mashaal pointedly called for an end to the bitter dispute between Hamas, which rules Gaza, and Fatah, which controls most of the West Bank.

“After the Gaza victory, it is time now for ending this chapter of division and build Palestinian unity,” he said.

From Israel’s point of view, any unity government comprising Fatah and Hamas would end any chances of a dialogue between Israel and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

How can the Jewish state enter negotiations with a Palestinian entity that includes a party bent on its destruction? Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday to note that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had not distanced himself from Mashaal’s stance.

“It is interesting that Abu Mazen [Abbas] has issued no condemnation, not of the remarks about the destruction of Israel, just as previously he did not condemn the missiles that were fired at Israel,” Netanyahu said. “To my regret, he strives for unity with the same Hamas that is supported by Iran.”

On the other hand, President Shimon Peres posted on Facebook that Israel now faces a choice.

“The alternative to Hamas is Abbas,” Peres said. “He is a serious man who has declared himself in favor of peace and compromise, of a demilitarized Palestinian state and against terror.”

As for Mashaal himself, there were some who asked why Israel had allowed him in to Gaza. Perhaps the best answer was provided by the Foreign Ministry spokesman, who said that his entry proved that there was no absolute “siege” on Gaza, as Hamas claims.

Mashaal, who now shuttles between Cairo and Qatar and left Gaza for Egypt on Monday, became Hamas’s political leader in exile in 2004 after the organization’s founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was assassinated by Israel.

Born in the West Bank in 1956, he went into exile with his family in 1967 after the Six Day War. He is often described by foreign media outlets as being “moderate” compared to Hamas’s Gaza leaders, such as Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar.

Mashaal, for example, told CNN recently that Hamas would accept a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, signaling a willingness to accept Israel’s existence. But such an idea was not evident on Saturday when during his address in Gaza, Mashaal vowed to free “all of Palestine” – including Jerusalem, “inch by inch.”

In case there was any doubt about the meaning of his words, the Hamas silver anniversary rally took place in front of a panoramic view of Jerusalem, including al-Aksa Mosque, and a massive model of a rocket “made in Gaza.”

Mashaal also made a point of embracing boys dressed in military uniform and carrying toy guns.

The message to Israel and the world is crystal clear. Despite its appeal to the international community to stop labeling it a “terrorist” organization, Hamas has abandoned neither its genocidal intentions nor its threats to target civilians.

Hamas’s charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and its social media outlets brandish a new logo calling for the replacement of the whole Jewish state with a Palestinian state.

The Egyptian-mediated cease-fire reached between Israel and Hamas on November 21 notwithstanding, it is only a matter of time before the group that seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007 resumes its terrorist attacks against Israel.

We, supporters of Israel and opponents of terrorism everywhere, must now redouble our efforts to fight Hamas hatred, wherever it rears its ugly head, especially in the media. And if Abbas decides to join in the poisonous chorus while Hamas takes center stage, then he too should not be applauded by the international community.

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