Hamas' senior political leader Khaled Mashaal said on Thursday that his organization is willing to cooperate with any international effort to end the occupation but would never accept the notion of a demilitarized Palestinian state.
"The Palestinian people reject the Israeli position on a demilitarized state, on the refugees, on Jerusalem, and on the Jewish state," the exiled Mashaal said in Damascus, referring to Israel's demand any future Palestinian state recognize it as a Jewish nation.
"A demilitarized state is a pathetic state, not a serious national entity. The Palestinians will not accept Jerusalem as a unified city under Jewish control," said Mashaal, adding that the Palestinians were dedicated to returning the refugees to their homes. Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state "would erase the right of return to lands taken in 1948."
Mashaal also spoke of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "Netanyahu's only chance to free the soldier is through a serious prisoner exchange agreement," said Mashaal. "So far Israel's stubbornness has derailed the indirect negotiations and most of the other efforts in past years. We will continue to do everything to free the prisoners. Hamas is committed to freeing all 12,000 prisoners."
'Obama's speech – good, but not enough'
Mashaal called US President Barack Obama's demand that Israel freeze all construction in the settlements "positive, but not enough." The Hamas leader said: "The times have changed – Israel can no longer defeat our people and our nations. It has failed in its Nazi war on Gaza just as it failed in Lebanon. This is the result of the resistance, not negotiations that only mask the face of the occupation."
Mashaal addressed Obama directly, saying the Palestinian people "has experienced every form of oppression, suffering and injustice." He expressed his appreciation of the new administration's attitude towards Hamas, calling it a step in the right direction.
Mashaal also called for and end to the blockade imposed on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and its rebuilding.
"President Obama uses new language, but we expect real pressure on the Israelis. There are demands to freeze the settlements, but that is not the price we want, even if it is a necessary step."
Mashaal said the West "is to blame for Israel's extremism."
He urged the warring Palestinian factions to reconcile and unite, he said such a reconciliation has not been reached yet because of the Palestinian Authority's "persecution of the resistance."
Israeli and Palestinian security forces loyal to the PA have boosted cooperation in the West Bank over the course of the past year, and Israel has praised the Palestinian troops' ability to thwart terror attacks and dismantle terror infrastructure, mostly belonging to Islamic Jihad but also Hamas.