In a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Hamas foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar, called Israel’s settlement expansion and Separation Barrier obstacles to peace. But the language he used to do so was striking and unusual for any Hamas leader and particularly for him, who is known as more hardline than his counterparts. Here’s how Haaretz described the letter’s contents:
The letter, referring to Israel’s expansion of its West Bank settlements and its construction of a barrier on Palestinian land, says at one point:
“This will ultimately diminish any hopes for the achievement of settlement and peace based on a two-state solution,” a possible reference to recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
The unofficial translation of the letter’s final paragraph, provided by the Palestinian UN Observer Mission, states:
“Like all other people in the world, we look forward to live in peace and security for our people to live a dignified live in freedom and independence, side by side with our neighbors in this sacred part of the world.”
Of course, we must add a proviso that Zahar later “clarified” to Israel Radio that he denied recognizing Israel’s right to exist and claimed he had not mentioned the concept of a two-state solution. Go figure.
All I can say if the Hamas leadership keeps vacillating in this way by making conciliatory public statements and then withdrawing them, their credibility will eventually diminish even among those who have some sympathy for their views.