Hamas softens Israel stance in calls for Palestinian state

Hamas yesterday appeared to soften its long-standing refusal to recognise Israel. Khaled Meshal, the Islamic movement's political leader in exile in Damascus, said that Israel was a "reality" and that "there will remain a state called Israel, this is a matter of fact". Both Israeli and European diplomats reacted with caution, although they acknowledged that the interview contained things Hamas had not said before. Mr Meshal is regarded as the man who dictates policy for the Palestinian government from his base in the Syrian capital.

Mark Regev, Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: "The problem up to now has been that Hamas says again and again that Israel has to be wiped off the map." Asked about Mr Meshal's statement that there would remain a state called Israel, he conceded: "That has to be looked at more carefully. We have no indication so far of any policy change."

In his comments, in a Reuters interview, Mr Meshal hedged his acceptance of Israel and said that Hamas would refuse to consider granting formal recognition until its demand for a Palestinian state was met. He said: "The problem is not that there is an entity called Israel. The problem is that the Palestinian state is non-existent." He added that Palestinians had to have a state that included the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, with a right for Palestinian refugees to return to their homes inside what became Israel in 1948.

He said: "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. This is a reality, but I won't deal with it in terms of recognising or admitting it." He declined to accept the Western demand for Hamas to recognise Israel, renounce violence against it and honour previous peace agreements.

One European diplomat said in Jerusalem that Mr Meshal had not gone far enough for economic sanctions to be lifted. It would have been better, he said, if he had endorsed the 2002 Arab peace plan, which offered full peace in return for Israel's withdrawal from all territories occupied in the 1967 war.

The diplomat suspected that the softer line might have been a tactical ploy to revive the chances for a Palestinian unity government and restore Hamas's popular appeal. Hamas has recently been weakened by the massacre of a Gaza security commander, identified with Fatah, and seven of his men; and the execution of Saddam Hussein.

The massacre shocked Palestinians and encouraged Fatah to challenge the domination of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Tens of thousands attended a rally in a football stadium, chanting anti-Hamas slogans and anointing Mohammed Dahlan, a charismatic Fatah security chief, as a future leader.

Mr Dahlan boasted in an interview with the liberal Israeli daily Ha'aretz yesterday: "We proved to Hamas that Gaza is not theirs. They lost the Palestinian street, which sees what they have become: a bunch of murderers and thieves who execute Fatah members."

To most Palestinians, Saddam Hussein was a hero who supported their cause, rocketed Israel in the 1991 Gulf war, and subsidised the families of suicide bombers. They condemned Hamas for not distancing itself from its Iranian backer, which rejoiced at his execution.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
Sport
Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse come together
football
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The beat is on: Alfred Doda, Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka in ‘Hyena’
filmReview: Hyena takes corruption and sleaziness to a truly epic level
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life