GAZA,(Reuters) – Hamas will never recognise Israel’s right to exist but will negotiate conditions for a long-term truce with the Jewish state, senior Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told a Palestinian newspaper in comments published on Friday.
“We will never recognise the legitimacy of the Zionist state that was established on our land,” Meshaal wrote in a column in the Palestinian al-Hayat al-Jadida newspaper.
Meshaal, who is based in Damascus, heads the political and military wings of the militant Islamic group Hamas, which won last week’s Palestinian parliamentary election by a landslide and appears set to form the next Palestinian government.
Hamas, which spearheaded a suicide bombing campaign that has killed hundreds of Israelis over the past decade, has long said it might heed a truce with Israel as an interim measure but would not abandon its long-term goal of destroying the Jewish state.
But in his newspaper column, titled “To whom it may concern”, Meshaal said Hamas might be willing to negotiate with Israel on the conditions for such a truce.
“If you (Israel) are willing to accept the principle of a long-term truce then we will be ready to negotiate with you over the conditions of such a truce,” said Meshaal, the politburo chief of Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction.
The United States and the European Union have called on Hamas to disarm, revoke its charter calling for Israel’s destruction, halt attacks against Israel and embrace peacemaking or else face the prospect of a cut in foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority that it will soon run.
In his column, Meshaal rejected these calls.
“Our message to the United States and Europe is that the attempts you are exerting to make us abandon our principles and struggle will be wasted and will not achieve any results,” he wrote.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was quoted by Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper as saying: “If Hamas wants to set up a government, then Hamas must recognise Israel”.