Hamas' Meshal Pleads Trump to Seize 'Historic Opportunity' to Pressure Israel

Hamas leader says Trump has a better chance than predecessors to change the status quo

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A screenshot of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in an interview with CNN released Wednesday, May 3, 2017.
A screenshot of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in an interview with CNN released Wednesday, May 3, 2017.Credit: Screenshot/CNN

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal implored U.S. President Donald Trump to take advantage of an "historic opportunity" for an "equitable solution" for the Palestinians in an interview with CNN released on Wednesday, ahead of a meeting between the American president and his Palestinian counterpart in Washington.

"This is an historic opportunity to pressure Israel ... to find an equitable solution for the Palestinian people." Meshal told CNN's Nic Robertson in Doha. "And it will be to the credit of the civilized world and the American administration to stop the darkness that we have been suffering from for many years."

Asked if he believes that Trump has the right character to provide a breakthrough in the Middle East stalemate, Meshal replied affirmatively, saying the new administration has a "greater threshold for boldness" than those before it.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Trump in the White House Wednesday evening (Israel time). A senior White House official told Haaretz on Tuesday night that Trump will seek Abbas' commitment to a reboot of the peace process.

The Palestinians have expressed optimism ahead of the meeting. Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu-Rudeineh, said the Palestinian president would stress the need for advancing a process based on a two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative, the 2002 proposal that was ratified once again at the Arab League summit in late March.

The interview with Meshal came after Hamas' recent release of a new charter considered more moderate than its predecessor, including accepting the possibility of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with Israel while stopping short of recognizing Israel's right to exist.

"This is a plea from me to the Trump administration - the new American administration," said Meshal. "Break out from the wrong approaches of the past which did not produce results; and perhaps to grab the opportunity presented by Hamas' document."

According to Meshal, the new charter was intended to forge a "unified political position" with the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank while aiming to earn recognition as a legitimate player in the region.

While traditionally considering the whole of Israel as occupied territory, Meshal focused primarily on Israel's military occupation of and settlement construction in the West Bank, saying this was part of Israel's "intransigence" that warranted pressure from the Trump administration.

Meshal told CNN he rejected the view that Hamas' militarily hostile actions against Israel constitute "violence," calling the group's indiscriminate rocket fire "legitimate resistance" against "daily Israeli aggression," and saying Hamas would not "abandon what little it has to defend itself.