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Olmert Ignores Meshaal Comments and Hamas Double-Speak

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed a Hamas leader's statement that acknowledged the Jewish state's existence, if not legitimacy. Touring Beijing, he said, "Am I supposed to read what he says?"
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 1/11/2007, 2:20 PM / Last Update: 1/11/2007, 9:51 AM

The prime minister did not appear particularly impressed with comment by Hamas politburo head and chief terrorist Khaled Meshaal in a Reuters interview Wednesday. Meshaal said Israel is a reality and “there will remain a state called Israel; this is a matter of fact.”

Olmert, who is facing the prospect of a criminal investigation into corruption charges when he returns from his three-day trip to China, asked reporters accompanying him on a tour of the Forbidden City, “Does that mean we weren’t until now?”

The Prime Minister appeared more interested in his tour of China than in what might signify the beginning of a change in the hard-line policy by the terrorist organization. Hamas controls the Palestinian Authority legislature, and continues to hold captive IDF officer Gilad Shalit after his abduction in a cross-border raid from Gaza last June.

“Should I be expected to check what he [Meshaal] said? Should I be expected to read what he said?” shrugged Olmert as he continued his tour.

Hamas was equally quick to minimize the significance of Meshaal’s remarks. Immediately after the chief terrorist’s remarks were published, senior members in the organization insisted his comments did not constitute a change in the terror group’s official stance that it will never recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist.

The head of the Hamas ruling faction in the Palestinian Authority Legislative Council, Salah Bardawil, claimed that Meshaal’s words had been distorted by the Reuters reporter who had interviewed him. “He didn’t speak about any recognition of Israel, only a ceasefire with Israel,” Bardawil told Haaretz.

Reuters reported that Meshaal had said the Jewish state could only be formally recognized after it meets demands for an independent PA state comprised of all of Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the eastern half of Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem.

Hamas is also demanding that all the Arabs who fled Israel after the wars in which surrounding Arab countries attacked the Jewish state be allowed to return to the homes they abandoned.