A day after agreeing to form a Palestinian unity government with rival faction Fatah, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal (pictured above) has told The New York Times that he will work toward a two-state solution with Israel that involves the creation of "a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital, without any settlements or settlers, not an inch of land swaps and respecting the right of return" of Palestinian refugees to Israel. Before we declare the Israeli-Palestinian conflict solved, however, we should sound several cautionary notes.
- Meshal's Stipulations: The Hamas leader's caveats--Jerusalem as a capital, the dismantling of settlements, the so-called "right of return"--are extremely contentious issues in the region. What's more, when the Times asked Meshal whether signing the deal he proposed would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he responded, "I don't want to talk about that." Meshal also refused to renounce violence, as the U.S. and E.U. demand, though he did say he was open to a ceasefire with Israel. "Where there is occupation and settlement, there is a right to resistance," he said. "If Israel stops firing, we stop firing." Meshal appears to have not mentioned recognizing Israel--another key sticking point and demand of international mediators.
- Israel's View of Hamas: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't view Hamas as a peace partner. "Hamas has not abandoned the goal of destroying Israel," he said after meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris today, a day after calling the Palestinian reconciliation deal a "victory for terrorism" following a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron threatened to endorse Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's effort to unilaterally declare Palestinian independence at the U.N. in September if Israel refuses to participate in peace negotiations. In Paris, Netanyahu said peace could only be achieved through "negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and not through a UN diktat"--a sentiment echoed today by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
- Hamas's Record on Two-State Solution: This isn't the first time Hamas has called for a two-state solution. In 2006, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar expressed support for such a plan as a new Hamas-led Palestinian government came into being. Two years later, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter announced that the Islamist movement would accept a two-state solution so long as it was approved by a Palestinian referendum or a newly elected government. In 2009, Meshal, living in Damascus at the time, told the Times that he would accept a Palestinian state in the areas Israel won in the 1967 war, in a statement not unlike the one he issued today. Days later he rejected a two-state solution.
Photo by The Associated Press