Chief of Hamas Political Bureau Khaled Mashal has once again made relatively moderate statements about his organization's involvement in any future peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians in a conversation with Indian journalists on Tuesday.
Mashal said, speaking in English, "Hamas believes that we have full rights over the whole land and we don’t recognize occupation. Our fathers and grandfathers lived there. Hamas is also very much keen on a unified Palestine front. That is why we have accepted a joint Arab and Palestine program, based on 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital, with the right of return of Palestinians expelled during years by successive Israeli governments."
Asked about the apparent contradiction in his position, Meshal answered, "We are facing apartheid. Nobody can force us to treat Israel as friendly nation or a legitimate entity. All of this also doesn't mean that at a certain moment or at a proper moment, we will not negotiate with the enemy. Given the political circumstances, we are positive of achieving our national goal through political means.
"Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel is not a stumbling block as you mentioned. The history is different. Yasser Arafat recognized Israel and he engaged in the peace process. But did Israel reciprocate his gesture? Mahmoud Abbas also recognized Israel. But did he succeed? He came up with nothing. Impasse in peace process is not because of us. The problem is not about recognizing Israel. There are no shortcuts in a struggle. The main reason is occupation by Israel and its refusal to recognize the rights of the people."
The leader commented on a possible peace deal with Israel, "We will put any peace accord and our relations with Israel to a referendum. Hamas will respect the decision of the majority. Somebody may say we are making it difficult. But others had made it easier like Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. So the problem doesn’t lie on our side, not on Fatah’s side and not even with Khalid Mashal. The problem is on the Israeli side. The master key is with Israel. They have to recognize our right."
Meshal addressed accusations that his organization is terrorist: "We are a national resistance movement, not a terrorist organization. We have the right to resist occupation. We have gained legitimacy because of our election victory. We are not random killing machines like terrorists. We are confining our battle against the occupier and within the borders of Palestine. This struggle against occupation has legitimacy in international law, and it also has been recognized in all faiths."
This is not the first time that Meshal has made moderate statements. He did the same following Operation Pillar of Defense when he said that Hamas could accept a Palestinian state on 1967 borders. Then, too, he was speaking in English. His interview came against the backdrop of impending internal Hamas elections. It is as of yet unclear if Meshal will run again.