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Dweik: Hamas doesn't recognize Israel

Jan. 21, 2010 6:01 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 23, 2010 3:46 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma'an – Palestinian Legislative Council speaker Aziz Dweik on Thursday denied reports by Israeli news outlets that he said on Wednesday Israel has a right to exist.

"The media reports in question were inaccurate," he said in a statement, adding that since his release from an Israeli prison last year, Israeli news outlets have repeatedly misrepresented his views.

The Jerusalem Post, an English-language Israeli newspaper, quoted Dweik as saying on Wednesday that the Islamic movement has accepted Israel's right to exist and would be prepared to nullify its charter, which calls for dismantling the state.

The remarks were said to have been made during a meeting in Hebron with British millionaire David Martin Abrahams, who reportedly maintains close ties with senior Israeli and British government officials.

Dweik told Ma'an, however, that he offered no such recognition of Israel's "right to exist on Palestinian land," as was reported, and moreover, that he told Abrahams the PLO had made a mistake by nullifying its charter.

"The PLO canceled its charter, and Palestinians achieved nothing," he said. "This is Hamas' stance and the opinion of any Hamas leader regarding the nullification of [its] charter."

Dweik said the talks was held at Abrahams' request, and came within a series of meetings with the PLC's leadership with international officials, delegations and other news outlets. There was nothing unusual about Abrahams' visit, he said.

The Ramallah-based Hamas leader was seized along with dozens of others during arrest raids in retaliation for the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006. Dweik was detained for three years, officially for belonging to Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist organization.

Abrahams, who the The Jerusalem Post identified as a major donor to Britain's Labor Party, told the newspaper he would urge Foreign Secretary David Milliband to "consider the implications of Hamas's positive overtures."

"The fact that there is a possibility for recognition of Israel is a symbolic gesture," he reportedly said. "We can all look for good in people and we can all look for bad in people. I always look for the good."

He was also quoted as saying: "People might say that I'm naïve, so let them. But I'm prepared to give them a chance because I've got faith and confidence in Dwaik and [Gaza Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh. We can't allow 1.5 million to be festering in the Gaza Strip while the majority of them are good and well-educated."
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