Haniyeh denies telling W. Post Hamas would recognize Israel
Ismail Haniyeh, who is expected to head the Palestinian Authority's new Hamas-led government, yesterday denied having told The Washington Post that Hamas would recognize Israel if Israel met certain conditions.
In an interview published yesterday, the Post quoted Haniyeh as saying that Hamas would recognize Israel if Israel agreed to "recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, release the prisoners and recognize the rights of the refugees to return to Israel."
But at a press conference with Palestinian media in Gaza yesterday, Haniyeh said that he never discussed the question of recognizing Israel in the interview; he said only that if Israel fulfilled those three conditions, Hamas would consent to a long-term truce with it.
Haniyeh did not address specific quotes from the interview with Lally Weymouth.
Weymouth asked Haniyeh repeatedly whether Hamas would be willing to recognize Israel.
Initially, he responded that the real question was "which Israel should we recognize? The Israel of 1917; the Israel of 1936; the Israel of 1948; the Israel of 1956; or the Israel of 1967? Which borders and which Israel?"
Later, however, when Weymouth specifically asked whether Hamas would recognize Israel in the 1967 borders, Haniyeh responded: "If Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, then we will establish a peace in stages."
Asked what exactly this means, he said: "We will establish a situation of stability and calm which will bring safety for our people - what Sheikh [Ahmed] Yassin called a long-term hudna."
Toward the end of the interview, Weymouth again asked whether Hamas would be willing to recognize Israel.
This time, Haniyeh responded: "If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognize them."
Meanwhile, a senior Russian diplomat said yesterday that Moscow expects Hamas to make a clear pledge to recognize Israel.
Alexander Kalugin, the Russian Foreign Ministry's special envoy to the Middle East, said that Hamas should outline approaches to recognition of Israel in its action plan.
"The main thing is that they should clearly speak on the issue of recognizing the state of Israel," Kalugin said, according to the Interfax news agency.
A delegation headed by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal is due to arrive in Moscow on March 3, Hamas said in a statement posted on its Web site on Friday.
Kalugin said that the Hamas delegation is expected to arrive in Moscow "at the end of the first week of March."