WASHINGTON, February 26, 2006 (IslamOnline.net) - Hamas does not harbor or animosity towards Jews and could establish "peace in stages" with Israel if the latter withdraws to its 1967 borders and recognizes the inalienable rights of the Palestinians, Hamas leader and Palestinian Prime Minister-Designate Ismail Haniya said in an interview released Sunday, February 26.Reply
"We do not have any feelings of animosity toward Jews. We do not wish to throw them into the sea," Haniya told the Washington Post in a phone interview. "All we seek is to be given our land back, not to harm anybody."
"We are not war seekers nor are we war initiators," Haniya said. "We are not lovers of blood. We are not interested in a vicious cycle of violence."
"We are oppressed people with rights. If peace brings us our rights, then this is good."
Haniya rejected that Hamas' election victory was solely due to corruption within the former ruling Fatah party.
"The victory of Hamas is not only based on the corruption of the Palestinian Authority.
"Hamas has a vision and a program and this is the reason why the Palestinian people chose Hamas. However, there is no doubt that the corruption helped Hamas's victory," he said.
Hamas has swept the Palestinian legislative elections, winning 74 of the 132-seat legislature, against 45 for Fatah.
The new parliament, whose first session was postponed until March 6, will approve the next Palestinian government, expected to be announced within the next two weeks by Haniya.
"Peace in Stages"
Haniya further set conditions to achieve "peace in stages" with Israel.
"If Israel withdraws to the '67 borders, then we will establish a peace in stages," Haniya said.
Clarifying what he meant, Haniya said: "Number one, we will establish a situation of stability and calm which will bring safety for our people -- what (Hamas founder) Sheikh (Ahmad) Yassin called a long-term hudna (truce)."
Haniya said Hamas would honor agreements "that will guarantee the establishment of a Palestinian state, with Al-Qduds (occupied East Jerusalem) as its capital, with 1967 borders, as well as agreements that would release prisoners."
The border issues is one of several thorny negotiation files the Palestinian Authority and Israel earlier decided to leave until a later stage of negotiations.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said earlier in February that Israel would set borders with the Palestinians "unilaterally" in the absence of a peace deal.
Haniya, meanwhile, denied in statements carried by Al-Jazeera channel that he told the Post's correspondent Hamas was ready to "recognize Israel."
"The subject of recognizing Israel was not mentioned in the interview," Haniya told reporters in Gaza City.
"I said when the occupation withdraws from our land, including Al-Quds, releases prisoners and implements the right of return, then it is possible Hamas will agree to a long-term ceasefire," he said.
The US and EU have demanded that Hamas "renounce violence," disarm and change its charter on the destruction of Israel or risk losing foreign aid to a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian resistance factions observed last year a de facto truce since President Mahmoud Abbas was elected in January, an agreement that was cemented at talks brokered by Egypt last March.
The shaky truce, which officially expired with the beginning of the new year, has repeatedly been put to the test by Israeli assassinations of resistance activists and incessant attacks.
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