Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Hamas' declaration over the weekend that it would never recognize Israel and would "free the land of Palestine inch by inch" had once again "exposed the true face" of Israel's enemies.
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"They have absolutely no intention of compromising with us," Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, a day after Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal made the remarks at a "victory" rally marking the Islamist movement's 25-year anniversary. "They want to destroy the state. They will of course fail... The nation of Israel will overcome these hostile enemies."
Netanyahu voiced particular disdain over Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' failure to condemn Meshal's remarks. "The interesting thing is precisely that Abu Mazen [Abbas] did not issue a condemnation, not against words calling for the destruction of Israel, just as he did not condemn the firing of missiles at Israel," Netanyahu said, referring to Abbas' silence during the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian president "is striving for unity with the same Hamas that is supported by Iran," said Netanyahu. We are a government without delusions, we want true peace with our neighbors - but we are not closing our eyes, and we are not burying our heads in the sand. We are not prepared to make the same mistake again of unilateral withdrawal... that essentially brought Hamas into power in Gaza."
Netanyahu added that he was also "dumbfounded by the illusions of others who are prepared to continue along this process, calling it peace. You hand over more land - in this case the territories of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] to the same people, and the result of course will be Gaza on the peripheries of Tel Aviv, Hadera, and Kfar Sava."
"We must and can stand against this," Netanyahu said. "We are also up against international pressure, which has brought us to this place, and this is what today is demanded of the leadership in Israel."
Hamas leader Meshal told the mass rally on Saturday: "Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land," he said, adding that he wanted the Palestinians to have all the territory that makes up modern-day Israel.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians gathered for the rally, which marked not only Hamas' 25th anniversary, but also Meshal's first visit to Gaza.
Once treated as a pariah organization by its neighbors, Hamas has seen its standing in the region rise on the back of Arab Spring uprisings that have ushered in several sympathetic Islamist governments sharing much of its own ideology.
While Hamas rejects dialogue with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party say they want a negotiated deal based on the lines that existed before the 1967 war, when Israel took the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Israel unilaterally left Gaza in 2005, but still imposes a land and sea blockade that it says is necessary to prevent arms smuggling. It continues to occupy the West Bank and has annexed East Jerusalem - a move not recognized internationally.
Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of Israel but its leaders have at times indicated a willingness to negotiate a prolonged truce in return for a return to 1967 lines - something Meshal made no mention of at Saturday's event.