Q&A with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal

DAMASCUS Wed Jan 10, 2007 1:25pm EST

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Wednesday that Hamas acknowledges the existence of Israel as a reality but formal recognition by the group will only be considered when a Palestinian state has been created.

Following are excerpts from Meshaal's interview with Reuters.

Q: What does Hamas want?

A: We in Hamas are with the general Palestinian and Arab position and we are with the consensus of the necessity of establishing a Palestinian state on the June 4 borders, including (East) Jerusalem, the right of return and the withdrawal of Israel to these borders.

Q: Does accepting the 1967 borders presuppose the existence of Israel?

A: The problem is not that there is an entity called Israel, The problem is that the Palestinian state is non-existent. There is a reality that Israel exists on Palestinian territory. The problem is that the Palestinian state does not exist. My concern as a Palestinian is to found this state. International relations are not based just on recognition.

Q: Does that mean you accept Israel exists?

A: We do not want to go into issues that complicate the struggle. We are offering a real chance that the Arabs and Palestinians believe in. There will remain a state called Israel, this is an issue of fact but the Palestinians should not be required to recognize Israel. Not all international relations are based on the basis of recognition. Who will be the one to grab this chance?

Q: Does that mean you can formally recognize Israel?

A: We as Hamas and as Palestinians do not talk about recognizing Israel or accepting it as a reality. 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 a state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land. This is reality but I don't deal with it from the point of view of recognizing or admitting it. It is a fact that was the result of historical factors.

Q. Could Hamas recognize Israel in the future and alter its charter which calls for Israel's destruction?

A: Why should we occupy ourselves with a distant future when we have urgent needs to achieve in the near future? The distant future will have its own circumstances and positions could be determined then.

Q. Are you saying you will drive a harder bargain than other negotiators in past?

A. The method used by Israel in its negotiations with the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and in its attempts to take free compromises in return for limited small offers will not work with the Hamas movement. Hamas today has the confidence of the people and won the ballot. Hamas cannot accept the logic of bargains with Israel. Israel has to respect Palestinian rights. We are demanding a Palestinian state on the 1967 border including Jerusalem and the right of return. Israel has to say yes I agree and withdraw. But for Israel to suck us into bargains in stages and in packages, this road constitutes an attempt to weaken the Palestinian position, to lure the Palestinians into lowering the ceiling of their demands and to use the time factor and pressure which will not work with us.

Q. Will there be a new Palestinian government?

A. We had a plan to go for a government of national unity that was not technocratic but with ministers who were experts and we were searching for a formula that would not bring symbols into the government. But this project failed.

Now we say 'we go to an unconditional dialogue. Each side present their vision.' And at this stage we are committed to the formation of a government of national unity headed by current Prime Minister Haniyeh and on the basis of the national accord document. Then we agree on the details regarding the formation of the government.

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