Khaled Meshaal, the politburo spokesman for the Palestinian Islamic Movement, Hamas, responded on Wednesday to the Israeli claim that Hamas "does not recognize Israel", saying that, in fact, Israel as a state is a reality, but adding that the real problem is that Israel does not recognize Palestine, or the right of Palestinians to have their own state.
In an interview with the Reuters News Agency, the Hamas leader, currently exiled in Syria, said, "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."
The state of Israel has refused to accept the Palestinian demand for a state, instead occupying all Palestinian land with a military occupation since 1967. In that time period, over 500,000 Israeli civilians have been transferred onto Palestinian land to live in settlements, in an attempt to expand the land area occupied by the state of Israel. Israel has never defined its own borders since the state's creation in 1948.
Meshaal's statement Wednesday did not differ considerably from an earlier statement from Hamas in June 2006, in which the party raised the possibility that they would recognize a state of Israel within the 1967 borders if Israel also recognized the Palestinian state. At that time, however, the statement, though heralded as a change of policy by Hamas, did not receive much publicity, and was followed by a three-month long Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in which over 400 Palestinian civilians were killed by invading Israeli forces.
The Hamas party, elected by the Palestinian people to a majority in the Palestinian Parliament in January, has been under international pressure to accept Israeli demands. The demands include a recognition of Israel, the renunciation of the use of violence in resisting the Israeli occupation of their land, and the acceptance of past peace accords brokered with Israel on behalf of the Palestinian people by the rival Palestinian political party, Fateh.
Hamas did agree in June to recognize Israel if Israel recognized Palestine, to renounce violence if Israel also renounced violence, and to use the past peace accord as a basis for peace talks with Israel. But despite that fact, the Israeli and international pressure has remained in place, pressure which includes the illegal seizure of Palestinian import tax money by the Israeli government, and international sanctions on the Palestinian people. The sanctions are the first in history implemented against a population that is under military occupation.