A series of senior US officials visited
the region this week as part of the American peace efforts in the Middle East. US President Barack Obama's special envoy, George Mitchell, met
with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, where Hamas
leader Khaled Mashaal currently resides.
In a relatively rare interview with Mashaal published by the Wall Street Journal on Friday, the chief of Hamas' political bureau seeks to remind the American mediators that he and his organization should be included in these efforts.
The Hamas leader said his group was prepared to cooperate with the United States in promoting a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict if the White House can secure an Israeli settlement freeze and a lifting of the economic and military blockade of the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas and other Palestinian groups are ready to cooperate with any American, international or regional effort to find a just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, to end the Israeli occupation and to grant the Palestinian people their right of self-determination," Mashaal said in the interview.
He reiterated his stance that Hamas would not be an obstacle to peace. "We along with other Palestinian factions in consensus agreed upon accepting a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines," he said, stressing the need to lift the blockade imposed on Gaza.
"This is the national program. This is our program. This is a position we stand by and respect," Mashaal noted.
The Hamas politburo chief also said that "if Israel
doesn't accept a halt to stop building settlements, what then? The end of the settlements is a necessary step, but it's not the solution itself."
He insisted that his movement would not agree to recognize Israel, which along its ongoing terrorist activity is the thing preventing most Western countries from recognizing Hamas as a political body with rights.
Alongside the atmosphere of reconciliation with the West, Mashaal used the interview to express his well-known hostility towards Israel. "I don't care about Israel—it is our enemy and our occupier and it commits crimes against our people," he said. "Don't ask me about Israel, Israel can talk for itself."
A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem dismissed Mashaal's comments on Thursday. "Anyone who has been following Khaled Mashaal's comments over the last few months sees clearly that despite some attempts to play with language in a cosmetic way to give the impression of possible policy moderation, he remains rooted in an extremist theology which fundamentally opposes peace and reconciliation," Mark Regev told the Wall Street Journal.