Hamas “will never recognize Israel,” its Gaza prime minister said Saturday in a speech in Iran that is likely to complicate Palestinian efforts to form a unity government in the teeth of opposition from the Jewish state.
“They want us to recognize the Israeli occupation and cease resistance but, as the representative of the Palestinian people and in the name of all the world’s freedom seekers, I am announcing from Azadi Square in Tehran that we will never recognize Israel,” Ismail Haniyeh said.
“The resistance will continue until all Palestinian land, including al-Quds (Jerusalem), has been liberated and all the refugees have returned,” he said.
Haniyeh’s reiteration of Hamas’s long-held stance was made on the occasion of Iran’s commemoration of its 1979 Islamic revolution. The Gaza leader spoke to an estimated crowd of 30,000 from a stage alongside Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The 1979 revolution toppled Iran's pro-west monarchy and brought Islamic clerics to power.
Ahmadinejad was to address the crowd later on Saturday from the same stage as Haniyeh in front of which a full-scale model of a captured U.S. spy drone was erected.
The model drone and Hanieyh were clear signs of defiance by Iran's regime as it confronts US-led Western economic sanctions and Israeli threats of military action against its controversial nuclear program.
Israel rejects efforts by Hamas to link up with Fatah, the secular faction of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas that runs the West Bank, to form a unity government. It views Hamas as a terrorist organization and Iran as its sponsor and weapon supplier.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told U.N. envoys on Thursday that a Hamas-Fatah accord signed this week to partner in the new government “does not contribute to the advancement of peace negotiations or the well-being of the Palestinian people.”
The so-called Quartet of diplomatic players in the Middle East peace process -- the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- has long demanded that any Palestinian government including Hamas must meet certain conditions to join negotiations.
Those are the renunciation of violence and the recognition of Israel and of past agreements with the Jewish state.
Direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since September 2010. The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Israel rejects any conditions for talks to settle the Middle East conflict.