Mashaal: Shalit talks deadlocked because Israel unreliable
Hamas politburo chief tell French daily he doubts new Israeli government will lead to change Jewish state's stance in regards to his organization's demands. Talks aimed at securing kidnapped soldier's release stalemated due to Israel's unreliability, he says
Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal estimated Monday that the governmental changes in Israel would not end the stalemate in the negotiations aimed at securing the release of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, Mashaal blamed Israel for the standstill in the talks.
Shalit has been held captive in Gaza for more than two years, and the talks for his release have been mediated by Israel in the past few months, without any results. According to Mashaal, the reason for the negotiations' failure is Israel's conduct.
"The talks with Israel were frozen because of the unreliability on the Israeli side," he claimed.
The Hamas leader, who resides in Damascus, tries to stay up-to-date on Israeli politics, but has not expressed great optimism after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was elected to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as Kadima chairwoman.
"The Palestinians know from experienced that a governmental change in Israel rarely changes the government's strategy," he said.
He clarified that the only thing which could move the talks forward would be an Israeli agreement to Hamas' conditions.
"Until the top ranks of the Israeli government agree to our demands, serious negotiations will be impossible," he said, referring to Hamas' demands that Israel return to the 1967 borders, accept the right of return and remove the settlements.
'We have no problem with Jews'
Mashaal was asked to respond to the interviewer's claim that "many Israelis say you want to throw them into the sea."
"That's not true. We have no problem with the Jews, only with those who occupy our land and rob us of our right. Their religion or race is irrelevant," he explained.
About a month ago, Mashaal said Hamas was interested in a prisoner exchange deal which would secure Shalit's release "as soon as possible." He rejected the claims that his organization had set new conditions for the release, but clarified that he would not accept any "Israeli extortion".
"Hamas did not reject the talks for a prisoner release and did not set new conditions. However, we object to any extortion on the part of Israel, which is interested in reducing the number of Palestinian prisoners who should be released," Mashaal said in a Damascus speech in honor of the month of Ramadan.