Doesn't rule out Jews, Muslims and Christians living in an Islamic state. "The Palestinians never hated the Jews, their only enemy is the Israeli occupation."
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Newly-installed Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar on Sunday reiterated Hamas's desire to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state.
Zahar's remarks, in an interview with the Chinese news agency Xinhua, dispel hopes that Hamas's presence in power would have a moderating effect on its leaders. His statements also stand in sharp contrast with Hamas's attempt to project a conciliatory and pragmatic image following the movement's landslide victory in last January's parliamentary election.
Other Hamas leaders, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, have not ruled out over the past few weeks the possibility of negotiating with Israel or recognizing its right to exist.
"I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it," Zahar said in the interview. "I hope that our dream to have our independent state on all historic Palestine (will materialize)."
This dream, he added, "will become real one day. I'm certain of this because there is no place for the state of Israel on this land."
However, Zahar, who is the overall leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said he didn't rule out the possibility of having Jews, Muslims and Christians living under the sovereignty of an Islamic state, adding that the Palestinians never hated the Jews and that only the Israeli occupation was their enemy.
Zahar also said that the new Hamas cabinet might occasionally make contacts with Israel on running the daily affairs of the Palestinians, but stressed that these contacts would never be promoted to political talks.
Urging the international community to respect the Palestinian people's choice, Zahar said the new cabinet should be given a chance to show it was "clean and transparent."
He also called on the US to abandon its long-time partial policy that favors Israel and to refrain from exerting political and economic pressure on the Hamas cabinet.
"There are so many countries which support the Hamas cabinet and its stance," he said, without elaborating. "We will establish diplomatic relations with these countries."
Zahar said that the Hamas cabinet would "reconsider" previous agreements with Israel, noting that Israel had sabotaged these agreements. "Do you want us to repeat the same experience?" he asked.
Asked if Hamas would ever negotiate with Israel, Zahar said: "Israel wants to negotiate only for the sake of negotiations, but on the ground, it expands settlements and continues building the separation fence on Palestinian territories. Israel doesn't want peace, nor does it have any peace project. Therefore, we should not deceive our people and tell them that there will be negotiations."
Zahar said Hamas did not rule out the possibility of accepting a temporary two-state solution, but expressed doubts over whether Israel really wanted to see the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
"Does Israel believe in the idea of two states?" he asked. "Israel is deceiving the international community and it actually wants only a Jewish state and it just hopes to see the Palestinians have an autonomous regime."
Later, Zahar's office issued a statement denying that he supported a two-state solution. The statement claimed that Zahar's statements had been "distorted."
Meanwhile, Haniyeh on Sunday attacked the US for its decision to boycott the Hamas cabinet, saying the Palestinians were being punished because of their democratic choice.
"This government was elected in a free and honest election, and according to the democratic principles the American administration is calling for," Haniyeh said.
"We believe this is a punishment of the Palestinian people because of its democratic choice, and at the same time, it increases the people's suffering."
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