DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Hamas acknowledges the existence of Israel is an established fact, the movement's exiled leader Khaled Meshaal told Reuters on Wednesday, softening the group's refusal to recognise the Jewish state.This non-story is being blared out to thousands of news outlets as I write this, as if it means anything.
Israel is a "reality" and "there will remain a state called Israel, this is a matter of fact," Meshaal said in an interview.
"The problem is not that there is an entity called Israel," said Meshaal. "The problem is that the Palestinian state is non-existent."
Israel and Western governments have put financial sanctions on the Hamas-led Palestinian government for refusing to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace accords.
Meshaal said Hamas would defy the Western conditions and refuse to consider granting formal recognition to the Jewish state until its demand for a Palestinian state was met.
Hamas wants a Palestinian state that includes Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and accepts the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes lost in a 1967 war and before, Meshaal said.
"As a Palestinian today I speak of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state on 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land," said Meshaal.
"This is a reality but I won't deal with it in terms of recognising or admitting it," he added.
News flash: Hamas' Ramattan News Agency uses the word "Israel." So does Iran's IRNA news agency. So does Saudi Arabia, Yemen and every other Arab nation that doesn't recognize Israel.
Does this mean that their positions have changed? Does this mean that they are even one bit closer to recognizing Israel's right to exist or legitimacy? Of course not.
To Hamas, Meshaal's words are similar to saying that the US acknowledges that Al Qaeda exists. That is no breakthrough and it doesn't mean anything in terms of peace.
But since al-Reuters is trumpeting its reporter-diplomacy as some sort of a big deal, the natural reaction that will come next from Reuters and its eager Western readership is that Israel will now be expected to do something concrete in response, like free some murderers or dismantle some checkpoints.
I suggest that Israel responds by acknowledging that Hamas exists as well.