Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Friday said that the right of return for Palestinian refugees is "holy" to the Palestinian people and hinted that the Hamas-led government will make no concessions on this front in any future peace talks.
Speaking at a special conference entitled Defending the Right of Return Haniyeh told Hamas supporters in Gaza that "58 years after the nakba (disaster) the Zionist project is leaning toward withdrawal and is incapable of taking decisions, while the Palestinian-Arab project is in a stage of continuous development."
"The Zionist occupation took a gamble when they thought that our elders will die and our young will forget. But the present shows us that the same youths, whom the enemy thought would forget the right of return and accept life under the occupation, brought about the first and second intifada. And they are fighting for the land, the holy shrines and the right of return," he said.
Haniyeh saluted Israel's Arab population whom he said continue to live under Zionist occupation.
"More than a million Palestinians, who live on land captured in 1948, continue to build mosques and churches and fight for their Palestinian rights," he said.
'Document recognizing Israel important, needs more work'
Haniyeh also said that a proposal
hammered out by Palestinian prisoners that would implicitly recognize Israel is important but needs deeper study.
The proposal is the result of a month of negotiations by security prisoners in Israeli jails and it calls for a Palestinian state on the lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War: Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The implicit recognition of Israel would be a major change for Hamas, which calls for Israel's destruction, but it is unlikely to go far enough to satisfy Israel and Western nations, who cut off funds to the Palestinian government after Hamas won parliamentary elections in January.
"The document includes very important useful points that will contribute to remove some obstacles, but it needs more deep study," Haniyeh said, adding that the document would be among several presented to a conference of Palestinian factions later this month.
The Palestinian prime minister also referred to the violent clashes
between Hamas and Fatah, saying that these were painful incidents.
"The young people's blood being shed is the blood of all of us. Palestinian weapons must not be turned toward the chest of another Palestinians. We, together with Fatah, are exerting efforts to stop these confrontations," Haniyeh said.