Hamas leader in exile acknowledges the existence of Israel

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has, for the first time, acknowledged the existence of Israel as a reality. But he also said there would be no formal recognition of the Jewish State until the creation of a Palestinian state.

The comments, which were made by Mr Meshaal in an interview in Syria, indicate a softening of Hamas' usually defiant rhetoric. And it’s the clearest statement yet on the militant group’s attitude to Israel.

“It is true that in reality, there is an entity or a state called Isreal on the rest of Palestinian land,” said Khaled Meshaal. “This is reality but I do not deal with it from the point of view of recognizing or admitting it. It is a fact that was the result of historical factors. We today are talking of Arab and Palestinian readiness to accept a state on 1967 borders on the assumption that this will provide an important amount of stability and peace in the region. The question is: Is there Israeli, American and international readiness to admit this Palestinian demand?”

Hamas, which swept to power in last January’s elections, has previously refused to accept the existence of the Jewish State. And its resistance to do so, along with its refusal to renounce violence, has triggered crippling financial sanctions by Western governments on the Palestinians.

Khaled Meshaal has described the action as blackmail and insists his group will continue to refuse to formally recognize Israel until a Palestinian state is established. He also said that Hamas stands by its support of Arab calls for a Palestinian state to include Gaza, the West Bank, and east Jerusalem, and called on the international community to pressurize Israel into agreeing to the demands in the interests of peace and security.

But Israel is unlikely to give in any time soon. The Jewish state takes the firm view that it will never give up Arab east Jerusalem nor permit Palestinian refugees to return from abroad.

And the refusal of both sides to accept the opposing demands is obstructing the ‘road map’ for peace in the Middle East.