Hamas has accepted Israel's right to exist and would be prepared tonullify its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, AzizDwaik, Hamas's most senior representative in the West Bank, said onWednesday.
Dwaik's remarks are seen in the context of Hamas's attempts to win recognition from the international community.
Dwaik is the elected speaker of the Palestinian LegislativeCouncil. He was released a few months ago after spending nearly threeyears in an Israeli prison.
Dwaik was among dozens of Hamas officials and members who wererounded up by Israel following the abduction of IDF soldier St.-Sgt.Gilad Schalit near the Gaza Strip in June 2006.
His latest remarks were made during a meeting he held in Hebronwith British millionaire David Martin Abrahams, who maintains closeties with senior Israeli and British government officials.
Abrahams is scheduled to brief British Foreign Secretary DavidMilliband this weekend on the outcome of his meeting with Dwaik andother top Hamas officials in the West Bank.
Abrahams, a major donor to Britain's Labor Party, told The Jerusalem Post he would urge Milliband to "consider the implications of Hamas's positive overtures."
During the meeting in Hebron, Dwaik stressed that other Hamasleaders, including Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal and Gaza PrimeMinister Ismail Haniyeh, have voiced support for the idea ofestablishing an independent Palestinian state within the pre-1967boundaries.
"The [Hamas] charter was drafted more than 20 years ago," Dwaiknoted, adding that his movement would even be prepared to "nullify" thedocument.
"No one wants to throw anyone into the sea," he said.
Dwaik also expressed Hamas's desire to engage in dialogue withthe international community, first and foremost the European Union. Heconfirmed that Hamas was receiving financial aid from Iran, but saidthat this was the direct result of the boycott and sanctions againstthe movement.
Abrahams said that he would be happy to facilitate a dialoguebetween Hamas on the one hand, and Israel and the internationalcommunity on the other. He said he was "very excited" to hear from themost prominent leader of Hamas in the West Bank that the movement wouldbe prepared to nullify its charter and accept Israel.
"The fact that there is a possibility for recognition of Israelis a symbolic gesture," Abrahams added. "We can all look for good inpeople and we can all look for bad in people. I always look for thegood."
Asked whether he might be condemned as naïve for believingHamas, Abrahams said, "People might say that I'm naïve, so let them.But I'm prepared to give them [Hamas] a chance because I've got faithand confidence in Dwaik and Haniyeh. We can't allow 1.5 million to befestering in the Gaza Strip while the majority of them are good andwell-educated."
Abrahams said that his decision to engage Hamas was aimed at"preventing bloodshed on both sides." He said he was encouraged by themassive support he found among the Jewish community in Britain for theidea of talking to Hamas.
"I recently published an article in the Jewish Chronicleto test the temperature of the water within the Jewish community aboutHamas," he said. "I found a lot of support among Jews for dealing withHamas and I was pleasantly surprised."
Denying that he had delivered any message from the Britishgovernment or the EU leadership to Hamas, Abrahams said he wasconvinced more than ever that the movement posed no threat to the US."Hamas is different from al-Qaida," he said. "Hamas is no threat toWestern interests."
Some consider Dwaik, as speaker of the PLC, to be the actingpresident of the Palestinian Authority, since Mahmoud Abbas's termofficially expired on January 9. Dwaik himself has said that he iscontent to let Abbas continue in office until the election that is nowscheduled for June 28, 2010.