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January 11, 2007
Reality-Based Hamas

The global leader of Hamas finally admitted that a nation calling itself Israel exists, even if he's not happy about it. Khaled Mashaal says that he wants a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, an implicit acknowledgement of the fact that Israel exists on the other side of the line:

The hardline leader of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, accepted the existence of Israel yesterday and acknowledged that the Jewish state was likely to remain a reality. In a clear softening of his position, Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader based in Damascus, even held out the possibility that he would one day recognise Israel formally, once Palestinians had a state of their own.

“There will remain a state called Israel. This is a matter of fact,” he said. “The problem is not that there is an entity called Israel,” Mr Meshaal said. “The problem is that the Palestinian state is non-existent.”

He went on to endorse the idea of a two-state solution with the Palestinian state made up of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

“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,” he said. “This is a reality but I won’t deal with it in terms of recognising or admitting it,” the Hamas leader said.

If this is true, it's quite a shift for Mashaal. As late as last year, Mashaal insisted that Hamas would never accept the "Zionists" on Palestinian land. Hamas has blocked Mahmoud Abbas' attempts to engage the Israelis on a two-state solution, which makes this statement an even more striking development.

Can we expect a softening of the Hamas position in the Palestinian Authority as a result? It seems doubtful. Mashaal will probably find a way to retreat at light speed from these remarks. The Israelis aren't taking it seriously, with their Foreign Ministry saying that Mashaal was just "playing with words".

Condoleezza Rice starts off her latest tour through the Middle East, hoping to restart peace talks by meeting with both sides in Jerusalem and Ramallah. At the end of the week-long visit, she'll go to London to meet with our Quartet partners. I doubt that she will have much new to report, even with the new "reality-based" Hamas leadership style.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 11, 2007 4:52 AM

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