Thursday, January 11, 2007

Head of Hamas Acknowledges the Existence of the State of Israel

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The head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has just taken the absolutely stunning step of acknowledging the existence and the continuing reality of Israel [bolds mine]:

The hardline leader of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, accepted the existence of Israel yesterday and acknowledged that the Jewish state was likely to remain a reality. In a clear softening of his position, Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader based in Damascus, even held out the possibility that he would one day recognise Israel formally, once Palestinians had a state of their own.

“There will remain a state called Israel. This is a matter of fact,” he said.

“The problem is not that there is an entity called Israel,” Mr Meshaal said. “The problem is that the Palestinian state is non-existent.”

He went on to endorse the idea of a two-state solution with the Palestinian state made up of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

“As a Palestinian today I speak of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state on 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land,” he said.

“This is a reality but I won’t deal with it in terms of recognising or admitting it,” the Hamas leader said.

The implicit acceptance of Israel and the tone of his remarks were in sharp contrast to previous comments, when he vowed that Hamas would never recognise Israel’s existence.

This is a breathtaking step forward. It's exactly what the Israeli government and all of its right-wing defenders have insisted is the prerequisite for a Palestinian state. If the Israeli government and all of its right-wing supporters had actually meant what they insisted they meant, then Ehud Olmert and all of the IDF's staunch cheerleaders would be making statements to the press and on their blogs like, "This is an extremely hopeful and positive step forward. We respect and applaud the courage and integrity of Khaled Meshaal, in making yesterday's statement. And now that Hamas has taken this enormously significant step, we can engage in serious discussions about Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, and the establishment of a Palestinian state."

Ha ha. Bless your soul. You really thought that was going to happen?

Last night Israel responded with deep scepticism to his latest comments.

“Unfortunately this is no indication that Hamas has changed its policy,” a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. “He [Mr Meshaal] is playing with words.”

As for right-wing supporters of Israeli military policy, they are almost completely silent. Only two blogger responses are on Memeorandum right now: Tammy Bruce and Ed Morrissey. Bruce takes Meshaal to task for making a distinction between the state of Israel as established in 1948, and the illegal, but de facto, state of Israel that exists on Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza; and she filed her post under "Jew-hatred."

Not that surprising; Bruce is a mad-dog right-winger -- in the same category as Pam Oshry and Debbie Schlussel. I am a bit surprised, though, at Ed Morrissey's dismissive response -- he is usually more fair than that. Although he acknowledges that Meshaal's statement is "quite a shift" for him, he then goes on to shrug off its significance:

Can we expect a softening of the Hamas position in the Palestinian Authority as a result? It seems doubtful. Mashaal will probably find a way to retreat at light speed from these remarks. The Israelis aren't taking it seriously, with their Foreign Ministry saying that Mashaal was just "playing with words".

Condoleezza Rice starts off her latest tour through the Middle East, hoping to restart peace talks by meeting with both sides in Jerusalem and Ramallah. At the end of the week-long visit, she'll go to London to meet with our Quartet partners. I doubt that she will have much new to report, even with the new "reality-based" Hamas leadership style.

No doubt Israel will also find a way to "retreat at light speed" from its assurances that acknowledgment of the reality and permanence of Israel's existence by such as Hamas would help lead to renewed peace talks, including serious discussion about a Palestinian state.

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