mashaal, iran pres 298.8.
(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Wednesday that Israel is a "reality," but the significance of his words were immediately downplayed by both Israeli and Hamas officials.
Mashaal, in an interview with Reuters, was quoted as saying that Israel is a "reality" and "there will remain a state called Israel, this is a matter of fact."
"The problem is not that there is an entity called Israel," said Mashaal. "The problem is that the Palestinian state is non-existent."
Recognizing Israel's right to exist, as well as forswearing terrorism and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements are the three criteria that the Quartet has set for granting the Hamas-led PA government legitimacy and lifting financial sanctions.
Over the last few months there have been efforts to get Hamas to implicitly recognize Israel, without explicitly saying so.
"As a Palestinian today I speak of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state on 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land," said Mashaal. "This is a reality but I won't deal with it in terms of recognizing or admitting it," he added.
But both Israeli diplomatic sources and Hamas leaders and spokesmen in the West Bank and Gaza Strip said that Mashal's words did not constitute a change in the movement's policy.
"Saying that Israel is an established fact is just a recognition of reality," one Israeli diplomatic source said. "It doesn't say that they [Hamas] accept this fact." The source said that there was nothing in Mashaal's comment that said Hamas had changed its desire to wipe Israel off the map.
A senior Hamas official in Gaza City, meanwhile, said, "acknowledging that Israel exists does not mean recognizing its right to occupy the land of Palestine, which belongs only to the Moslems."
Another top Hamas representative in the West Bank said he was unaware of any major change in the movement's policy.
"Hamas reiterates its readiness to reach a long-term truce with Israel if Israel agrees to withdraw from all the territories that were occupied in 1967," he explained. "The fact that we acknowledge Israel does not mean that we recognize its right to take our land."