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Hamas official retracts 'close to recognizing Israel' comment

Aug. 2, 2009 5:18 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 3, 2009 6:46 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – Senior Hamas official Ahmad Yousef said on Sunday that the Islamic movement will never recognize Israel, backtracking on remarks printed by the British magazine The Economist.

Yousef said that the magazine misunderstood him when it quoted him saying that Hamas is close to recognizing Israel. He characterized the report as “totally untrue.”

In a statement to Ma’an, Yousef, who is the deputy foreign minister in the de facto government of Gaza, said that “no law” can force Palestinians to recognize Israel. “We can’t admit the existence of the state and the nation that is occupying us. They are the ones that should recognize Palestinian rights,” he said.

In an article printed in the magazine’s 30 July edition, Yousef is quoted as saying, “Hamas is very close on recognition of Israel,” and, “We show all sorts of ideological flexibility on this.”

In the course of the interview Yousef is also quoted saying that Hamas “honors” all previous agreements of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which include recognition of Israel.

Nonetheless, he told The Economist that Hamas was not prepared to accept the demands of the international Quartet outright by renouncing all violence. Instead, he said Hamas is ready for a “unilateral ceasefire” if Israel also formally agreed to one.

With regard to recognition of Israel he said, “The issue is not Israel’s right to exist. We know Israel is there. It’s not a matter of recognition.” Rather, Hamas’ opposition is to accepting Israel as legitimate, the magazine reported.

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