Meretz Party activists praised Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal Wednesday, calling the international spokesman for the terror gang a "bold" leader, pleading with Hamas to release IDF hostage Gilad Shalit and calling on Israel to open negotiations with the Islamist organization immediately.

According to a report on the Hebrew-language Ynet website, members of the Meretz Youth Organization forwarded a letter to Mashaal via former US President Jimmy Carter. Carter is expected to meet Mashaal in Damascus on Friday, a move that has angered US and Israeli officials and led most senior Israeli figures to boycott Carter's week-long visit to the region.

The letter praises Mashaal's "milestone" assertion that Hamas' political goal is limited to the establishment of an Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, despite the organization's charter that quotes extensively from the infamous anti-Semitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and calls repeatedly for the eviction and murder of all Jewish residents of "Palestine."

"(Mashaal's latest declaration) ought to be taken seriously by Israel and the international community," the left-wing activists wrote. "We hope that you will take another bold step to lead Hamas to recognize Israel. Such a decision could pave the way for a better future for both the Israelis and the Palestinians."

The letter then draws a parallel between Arab murderers and Israeli civilians living in Judea and Samaria, hinting that both groups are responsible for an ongoing state of war between Israel and local Arabs.  "The Israeli occupation and the Palestinian terror have failed. The only solution is mutual recognition of the fact that both nations are here to stay and must therefore develop a normal relationship," they wrote.

Plea for Shalit

The Meretz group also called for the release of Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists during the summer of 5766 (2006), but failed to condemn the organization who has held Shalit hostage for nearly two years. Instead, the letter pleads with Mashaal to release the soldier in order to "show Israel and the rest of the world that Hamas can transform itself from a bitter enemy into a partner for dialogue, and it can also advance talks on a prolonged ceasefire that would free the Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis residing in the western Negev of the hell in which they live."

In addition to the letter, Meretz Youth Chairman Uri Zaki asked Carter to convey a message that he would be "willing to meet with Mashaal at any time" in order to encourage Hamas to stop shooting at Israeli civilians in the western Negev region and to please "recognize" Israel as a Jewish state.