Freed Hamas politician urges Israel to accept truce
HEBRON, West Bank |
HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) - The Hamas speaker of the Palestinian parliament, freed by Israel this week after three years in prison, has urged the Jewish state to accept a long-term truce offered by the Islamist group.
Although Hamas refuses to recognise Israel, it is offering "some type of reconciliation" that could, if accepted, bring lasting peace to the Middle East, Aziz Dweik told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
Israel should withdraw from Palestinian land to the borders it had before the 1967 Middle East War, and permit the creation of a Palestinian state with a pledge of non-violence, he said.
"We have to grasp this opportunity," Dweik said. "This is a moment of truth...I hope the Israelis will take advantage of it for their benefit and for our benefit."
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, opposes the dominant Palestinian Fatah group that recognises Israel and is ready to conclude a comprehensive peace treaty.
The Islamist group, which has carried out dozens of suicide bombings against the Jewish state, does not recognise Israel's right to exist but has spoken of a 15-year truce. Dweik said any truce should last as long as possible to allow reconciliation.
"Let Israel be clever enough to extend this kind of truce as much as they can, so that there will be a generation which will put aside any kind of dispute and reconcile," he said.
"I have repeatedly advised the Israelis," he added. "I told them that a new generation will grow instead of young people strapping explosive belts on their waists saying I want to kill myself and kill my enemy."
In a speech this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the U.S. goal of a Palestinian state but said it should be demilitarised and the Palestinians should accept Israel as a Jewish nation.
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal denounced Israel's offer of a demilitarised Palestinian state as a "big prison" and said armed struggle was the only choice for Palestinians.
Hamas, which is listed as a terrorist group by Israel and many Western countries, scaled back military attacks and offered a long-term truce after beating Fatah in the 2006 election.
But the group went on to seize control of Gaza in 2007, routing forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who responded by dissolving the Hamas-led coalition that had appointed Dweik speaker of parliament.
Israel detained Dweik and dozens of other Hamas politicians in the occupied West Bank in 2006 shortly after gunmen from the faction and other militants abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on the Gaza Strip border.
Dweik, a 60-year-old U.S.-educated university professor, was freed after Israeli prosecutors failed to persuade a military court last week to extend his prison term.
(Additional reporting by Haitham Tamimi and Labib Nasir)
(Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Lin Noueihed)
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