January 16, 2009 | 1:37 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
This may come as no surprise, but a Hamas leader still isn’t interested in peace. In fact, he’s seems to urging Gazans to make martyrs of themselves by refusing to negotiate with Israel:
In a speech broadcast across the Arab world and widely followed in the Middle East and elsewhere, Khaled Meshal, the senior leader in exile of Hamas, told an unusual Arab gathering in Doha, Qatar, that “I assure you: despite all the destruction in Gaza, we will not accept Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire.
“We tell our loved ones in Gaza, the aggression will soon perish on the rock of your steadfastness,” he said.
Israel has long insisted that a cease-fire should be long-term and sustainable, preventing Hamas from firing rockets at Israel or re-arming.
But Mr. Meshal, who is based in Damascus, Syria, told the meeting in Doha that his organization would accept a cease-fire only if Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza, lifted its blockade of the territory and reopened border crossing points. Despite three weeks of fighting that has claimed around 1,100 Palestinian lives, he said, “resistance in Gaza has not been defeated. It has suffered harm but it has not been defeated.”
According to Egyptian officials who know details of the cease-fire negotiations, Hamas has been plagued by internal bickering, with the Syria-based leadership hewing to a tougher line on concessions from Israel, while the Gaza-based leadership has been more eager to halt the fighting and be more flexible in negotiations.
The meeting in Doha came after a call by Qatar to hold an emergency Arab summit meeting on Gaza, but the proposal was opposed by regional powers like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, reflecting broader and profound divisions in the Arab world.
At least two other Arab gatherings have already debated or will debate the Gaza question. The Arab League says the Qatar meeting does not have the necessary quorum.
Mr. Meshal made the keynote address on Friday, securing a significant platform in his rivalry with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank city of Ramallah. In his speech, Mr. Meshal said settlements with Israel in the past had not brought solutions for Palestinians.
Earlier today, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, urged Israel to stop the war immediately, regardless of what Hamas agrees to do. Israel said no way.
“I don’t believe that there’s a logical expectation in the international community that Israel unilaterally cease fire while Hamas would continue to target cities, trying to kill our people,” Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said.
The United States and Israel have agreed upon a plan that will put some of the onus on the U.S. for keeping weapons from being smuggled into Gaza. This was believed to be a major step toward a ceasefire, but who knows. President-elect Barack Obama has been silent to this point, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that will need to enter the Israeli-Palestinian fray immediately after his inauguration Tuesday.
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