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
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower