HAMAS leader Khaled Mishaal has reiterated that all Palestinian factions agree on a state ‘within the 1967 borders’ and that Hamas agrees to the ‘de facto coexistence of two free independent states’.

He told the media that he accepted that Israel ‘is a reality’, but said Hamas would not give ‘legitimacy to the occupation by recognising it’.

Instead he proposed a 10-year truce, during which time he said measures could be taken towards ending the conflict, such as dealing with the issue of Palestinian refugees from areas in present day Israel.

Regarding his recent statements warning of a third intifada, Mishaal said this was ‘no mere idle threat’, saying that the West had to recognise the Palestinians’ national aspirations as failure to do so would only leave the Palestinians with the option of ‘resistance’ leading to ‘more suffering for all’.

Speaking about the danger of civil war Mishaal said: ‘Those who speak of civil war nurture the hope of seeing us tumble into the abyss; but one thing is for sure: That will not happen.

He added: ‘Dialogue among the various Palestinian factions will resume. We are planning a new project for a government of national unity. And that is not all, because soon we will also break the Israeli-US embargo.

‘Listen, the siege is falling apart.

‘The Arab League has marked its distance from the embargo. Funds are already flowing in to breathe new life into certain institutions, health, education.

‘Prime Minister Haniya’s trip to the Middle Eastern and Muslim countries is producing results.

‘Regional grassroots opinion is bringing pressure to bear. Even Europe has adopted a softer approach, although it is only a first step: There is ongoing contact behind the scenes.

‘We have paid no political price for this at all.

‘The fact of the matter is that the United States and Israel have realised that isolation leads nowhere; indeed, that it acts to the detriment of their very objectives.

‘This, because far from dealing a blow to Hamas, sanctions are in danger of sinking the Palestinian National Authority. The embargo has not weakened us, it has lent us new strength.

‘I am very well acquainted with the latest opinion polls.

‘Some of them are very artificially constructed.

‘The real opinion polls tell a different story, a story of widespread awareness among the Palestinian people that the instigators of the siege are the United States and Israel.

‘As for their feelings for Hamas. They want us to complete the democratic process that began with our election victory.’

Mishaal continued to speak about the struggle for a government of national unity.

‘We have made many important concessions in order to reach a government of national unity.

‘I will list some of them for you: Haniya’s tough decision to give up the premiership, and the exclusion of Hamas’ leading players from all the important ministries and posts.’

Mishaal continued to explain why Hamas would not give up the finance and security ministries.

‘It is easy to understand why: They are the two key posts for our election platform.

‘We promised the end of financial corruption and of the chaos prevailing in the security sphere, two curses that plague us, and the whole world knows it.

‘That is why the Palestinians voted for us. Those who want to deprive us of those crucial tools are actually seeking to wreck our reputation. That is the crux of the matter.

‘We will not allow ourselves to be dragged into a clash.

‘Those who provide Fatah with weapons, money and training to strengthen it against Hamas want internecine strife.

‘I wonder if that is the democracy that the United States is talking about.

‘But we are upping the stakes, with a new proposal for a national government.

‘All the political forces must offer their contribution to cross such a crucial ford.

‘Nor do we fear the fresh election that the PLO is threatening: We will present our candidates, also in the presidential election.

‘The new prime minister will speak in the government’s name.

‘He will not necessarily voice Hamas’s positions. It may sound obvious to say so, but this happens in every European country: The prime minister vows to implement a programme that has been thrashed out among the parties involved.

‘All the groups, including Hamas, agree on a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with full sovereignty over our lands, which is something Oslo did not envisage.

‘It is another remarkable step forward.

‘You ask me whether this is de facto recognition of Israel? Well, let’s put it this way: We agree to the de facto coexistence of two free and independent states.

‘Israel is a reality, but we will not impart legitimacy to the occupation by recognising it. As for peace, let us begin by consolidating the hudna, the truce.

The truce guarantees a total cessation of hostilities on both sides.

‘We have already proven last year that we keep faith with our given word. A hudna in Islamic law is a binding contract, whoever the other signatory may be: It is not so much a political commitment as a moral and religious obligation.

‘There you have it: We propose a 10-year truce.

‘In that time frame, while we would be building our state, one could take care of paving the way to peace, the end of the conflict, resolving the bitterest problems such as the right to return.

‘What is needed is a just solution for the 1948 refugees from Jaffa, from Nazareth and from Haifa – all cities that are in Israel today, but it is only natural that we will need to take reality into account.

‘That said, the problem lies elsewhere: Will Israel accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders?

‘Olmert does not address the basic principles of Palestinian rights: He says nothing about Jerusalem, or about the settlements and he denies the right to return. He avoids addressing the details.

‘Israel and the United States have not realised that time is working against them.

‘Israel thinks that it can conjugate occupation with security, but that is impossible.

‘And it is in the grip of a far deeper and more bitter crisis today than either the Palestinians or the Arabs. Israel is more powerful and more advanced than we are, but its trajectory is on the wane, while ours is rising.

‘The summer war in Lebanon has overturned many former certainties: the citizens’ faith in the army, an unprecedented event. Finally, the peak of occupation has passed: Israel has been withdrawing since 2000, first from Lebanon and then from Gaza.

‘Israel must act rapidly, it must accelerate the construction of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, because a new generation of Palestinians and of Arabs will soon be here, and they will be more stringent than us.

‘This, in my view, is where Europe can play a crucial role, because it is more aware of the reality on the ground.

‘Mine is no mere idle threat. I repeat, the West must wake up to the fact that the Palestinian cause is not just humanitarian, linked to the embargo, but it has a deep-seated national dimension to it as well.

‘Without this, all that the Palestinians will have left to them is resistance, intifada and escalation, with more suffering for all.

‘The international community must help us to achieve our rights. The Palestinians will prove capable of showing their gratitude.’