A senior Hamas leader indicated Sunday in an interview to CNN's "Late Edition" that his group's landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections changed little in its stance toward Israel.
Mahmoud Zahar reiterated that his movement would not ever recognize Israel's right to exist, nor did he reveal any willingness to negotiate. "Negotiation is not our aim; negotiation is a method," he said.
Zahar's comments came after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said in Sunday's cabinet meeting that Hamas was, at this point, acting "responsibly,"
and added that he believed that the organization would soon attempt to rein in terror.
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Asked if a Hamas-led Palestinian government would accept Israel's right to exist, Zahar responded, "The question should be answered first by Israel, because they are not accepting us, except as minority, not the owner of the land."
If Israel would concede to Zahar's stipulations then, Zahar said, the Palestinians would be willing to allow a 10-15 year trial ceasefire "in order to see what the real intention of Israel [was] after that."
The several conditions Zahar named included a demand that Israel change its flag. "Israel must remove the two blue stripes from its national flag," said Zahar. "The stripes on the flag are symbols of occupation. They signify Israel's borders stretching from the Euphrates River to the Nile River."
Zahar was also asked if Hamas, which America views as a terrorist organization, would renounce terrorism.
"What is the international definition of terrorism?" he responded. "When (Israeli forces) attack houses by F-16, just when they are using helicopters, when they are killing people and children and removing our agriculture system, this is terrorism."
Zahar said Hamas planned to work with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas leads the Fatah Party; he was elected to a four-year term last year and remains in power.
"We are going to cooperate with [Abbas], according to the Palestinian national interests, to help the Palestinian people to live as in a purified system, to fight against corruption," he said.
In response to US President George W. Bush's Friday statement that the United States would cut millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian government unless Hamas abolishes the militant arm of its party and stops calling for the destruction of Israel, Zahar said that Hamas expected the money, but that the aid should not be given conditionally.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.