* PM says Israel will never make unilateral concessions
* Minister says Israel could try again to kill Meshaal
By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM, Dec 9 Hamas's vow to vanquish Israel
after claiming "victory" in last month's Gaza conflict
vindicates Israel's reluctance to relinquish more land to the
Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
Khaled Meshaal, the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement,
made a defiant speech before thousands of supporters in the Gaza
Strip on Saturday, promising to take "inch-by-inch" all of
modern-day Israel, which he said he would never recognise.
"Over the last day, we have again been exposed to the true
face of our enemies. They have no intention of compromising with
us. They want to destroy our country," Netanyahu told his weekly
The Israeli leader has faced fierce foreign criticism this
week for announcing a wave of Jewish settlement building in the
occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem following a de-facto
recognition by the U.N. General Assembly of a Palestinian state.
But Netanyahu said Israel would never withdraw unilaterally
from the West Bank as it had done from Gaza in 2005, arguing
that this would risk creating another territory from which
Palestinians could launch rockets at Israeli cities.
"I am always aghast at the delusions of others who are
prepared to pursue this process and call it peace," he said.
"We want a true peace with our neighbours, but we will not
close our eyes nor bury our heads in the sand," he said, adding
that this required Israel to "stand up to international
Although Hamas refuses to recognise Israel or renounce
violence, the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
has said he is ready to make peace on the basis of the lines
that existed before the 1967 war, when Israel seized the West
Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Direct talks broke down in 2010 over the issue of settlement
building and Abbas, who holds sway in the West Bank, has since
called for reconciliation with Hamas, which ousted his own
forces from Gaza in a 2007 civil war.
Hamas's 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction
of Israel and for recovering all mandate Palestine, although
Hamas leaders have said in recent years the movement could live
peacefully alongside Israel if it wins a state on all land
occupied in 1967. Various Hamas officials have at times
indicated a willingness to negotiate a ceasefire, possibly
decades long, with Israel.
"What is interesting is that Abu Mazen (Abbas), of all
people, did not condemn the (Hamas) words calling for Israel's
destruction, just as previously he did not condemn the rockets
fired at Israel (from Gaza)," Netanyahu said.
"And to my regret he is working for unity with this same
Hamas, which is supported by Iran."
Hamas is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its foundation
this week, turning the event into a "victory" party following
its eight-day conflict with Israel last month in which some 170
Palestinians and six Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed.
Israel not only killed the group's military mastermind
during the fighting, but also says it destroyed long-range Gazan
rocket arsenals and secured a ceasefire that put an end to
indiscriminate attacks from the coastal enclave.
As a first-time premier in 1997, Netanyahu sent Mossad
assassins to kill Meshaal, then a mid-level Hamas figure, in
Jordan in reprisal for a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings.
They botched the mission, and the ensuing recrimination from
Amman forced Israel to free the jailed spiritual leader of
Hamas. The episode helped propel Meshaal to the top ranks.
A cabinet minister from Netanyahu's rightist Likud party,
Yisrael Katz, said Israel could again target Meshaal should
Hamas not keep the Egyptian-brokered Gaza truce of Nov. 21.
"He said he wishes to die a martyr, and there is a high
probability that this last wish would be realised, and he would
become a legitimate target, should the quiet be violated," Katz
told Israel Radio.
Meshaal is making his first visit to Gaza and is expected to
return to Egypt on Monday. He lives between Doha and Cairo, and
is the Hamas point person for all its foreign ties.