WASHINGTON - Top Hamas
official Mahmoud al-Zahar told CNN that a "long-term hudna or long-term truce" is possible. He would not commit to negotiating with Israel and would not say whether recognizing Israel's existence is a long-term possibility.
The conditions included Israel's retreating to its pre-1967 borders and releasing Palestinian prisoners.
Zahar told CNN if Israel "is ready to give us the national demand to withdraw from the occupied area (in) '67; to release our detainees; to stop their aggression; to make geographic link between Gaza Strip and West Bank, at that time, with assurance from other sides, we are going to accept to establish our independent state at that time, and give us one or two, 10, 15 years time in order to see what is the real intention of Israel after that."
"We can accept to establish our independent state on the area occupied (in) '67," he said. Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six-Day War of 1967.
Key conditions could allow Palestinians to give a "long-term hudna or long-term truce," and "after that, let time heal," he said.
But when asked about Hamas' call for Israel's destruction, Zahar would not say whether that remains the goal. "We are not speaking about the future, we are speaking now," he said.
Zahar argued that Israel has no true intention of accepting a Palestinian state, despite international agreements including the Road Map for Middle East peace.
'We are not taking money from Iran'
Until Israel says what its final borders will be, Hamas will not say whether it will ever recognize Israel, Zahar said. "If Israel is ready to tell the people what is the official border, after that we are going to answer this question."
Asked by CNN whether Hamas would renounce terrorism, Zahar argued the definition of terrorism is unfair.
Israel is "killing people and children and removing our agricultural system -- this is terrorism," he said. "When the Americans (are) attacking the Arabic and Islamic world whether in Afghanistan and Iraq and they are playing a dirty game in Lebanon, this is terrorism."
"Negotiation is not our aim. Negotiation is a method," he said.
Zahar said the government will use international donations to do reconstruction and build needed institutions. "We are looking for this money, but this money should not be conditioned," he said.
Zahar added, "We are not taking money from Iran," denying suggestions by Israeli and U.S. officials that there are growing ties between Hamas and Tehran. Iran's president has called for Israel's destruction.
According to CNN, news reports have said Hamas plans to establish separate schools for boys and girls in the Palestinian territories and implement stricter Islamic law.
'We're going to review all of our assistance programs'
When asked whether he plans a theocracy instead of a secular government, Zahar responded, "Do you think the secular system is ... serving any nation?"
A secular system "allows homosexuality, allows corruption, allows the spread of the loss of natural immunity like AIDS," he said. "We are here living under Islamic control. Nothing will change ... If you are going to give a hint that Islamic society will be against the modern life, I think it's incorrect."
Defense Minster Shaul Mofaz said Sunday the principle according to which Israel will not hold talks with Hamas as a terror group will be maintained, stating that only the annulment of the charter calling for Israel’s destruction, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, the disarmament of all terror groups and the recognition of all the agreements reached with Israel so far would pave the way for dialogue.
“The chances that Hamas will carry out all of these conditions in the near future seem quite slim.”
“We are not intervening in what goes on in the Palestinian Authority; we have already seen tension between Hamas and Fatah, which can be referred to as an ‘aftershock’ from the election results.
'No help for government that wants to destroy our friend'
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to meet E.U. foreign ministers in London on Monday in an effort to formulate a unified position on a Palestinian government consisting of Hamas members, said, “The United States is not prepared to fund an organization that advocates the destruction of Israel, that advocates violence."
Should Hamas acts against Israel, Mofaz threatened to “use all the means available to us (against the group), including targeted killings,” adding that the activity against Islamic Jihad would continue, especially in light of the fact that intelligence information indicates the organization is planning suicide attacks against Israel.
"We're going to review all of our assistance programs, but the bedrock principle here is we can't have funding for an organization that holds those views just because it is in government," Rice added.
United States provided a total of USD 403 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority in 2005, according to U.S. officials.
President George Bush said Sunday that the United States will not give aid to a government led by a violent Hamas party.
"We won't give help to a government that wants to destroy our friend and ally," Bush told CBS News.
"I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you don't give up violent intentions," Bush said.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report