JERUSALEM – Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal yesterday claimed his terror group, which catapulted to power in last month’s Palestinian elections, may offer Israel a long-term truce leading to a “period of peace” if the Jewish state vacates certain lands.

Meshaal’s comments follow a WND exclusive interview two weeks ago in which a top Hamas leader, using in some cases the same language as Meshaal, said his group will soon make public a “peace initiative” in which it will offer to trade strategic land with Israel, cease attempts to capture parts of Jerusalem and sign a 10-year renewable truce with the Jewish state with the aim of later destroying Israel.

“[Hamas would] possibly give a long-term truce with Israel,” said Meshaal in an interview yesterday from Egypt. “This is a position that Hamas could take, but not now, only after Israel recognizes the rights of the Palestinians, to show and confirm its willingness to withdraw to the 1967 borders.”

Meshaal said if Israel gives up territory bringing it to the 1967 borders – referring to a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem – there could be peace and security in the region.

Israel withdrew from Gaza this past summer. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday announced a plan to withdraw from most of the West Bank, which many military analysts consider crucial territory to maintain to ensure Israel’s defense.

Meshaal said Hamas will “surprise everybody” with its “new attitude” and willingness to be flexible.

His statements regarding a possible long-term cease-fire and Israeli withdrawal from territory coincide with a top Hamas leader’s outline to WND of a “peace initiative.” The leader justified such an agreement using Islamic tradition and said it would be a temporary machination to ease international and U.S. hostility toward his group in hopes of receiving financial assistance.

“We will be ready for a long interim agreement based on a period of cease-fire that can go to 10 or even 15 years like it was done by the prophet Muhammad with the enemies of the Muslims,” said the senior Hamas official, who spoke on condition his name be withheld, since he said he was “revealing confidential operative information.”

Hamas leaders, including Meshal, formulated a “peace proposal” they agreed would be acceptable to their group in which the Palestinians would offer to trade certain lands with Israel, the top Hamas official revealed.

“With the territories we will be ready to discuss the possibility that the three big settlement compounds will remain under the power of the occupation (Israel), and in exchange we will receive territories for the Palestinian independent state,” said the Hamas leader.

The leader told WND the “three settlements” he was referring to are Ariel and Gush Etzion, two large regions in the West Bank that contain many of the area’s major Jewish communities, and western and peripheral sections of Jerusalem, which he said Hamas considers “Israeli settlements.” Jews have resided in Jerusalem – which is mentioned more than 800 times in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible – for more than 3,000 years.

Hamas, in exchange for the three areas, would want the eastern sections of Jerusalem, the parts of the southern Israeli Negev desert that border the Gaza Strip and the Jordan Valley, which extends from outside Jerusalem toward Jordan and encompasses most of Israel’s major water supplies.

The Hamas official indicated his group may be willing to compromise on its territorial demands.

“We are most interested in Jerusalem and the Negev,” the leader said.

The leader then justified the Hamas “peace plan” using Islamic history.

“The Muslim hero Saladin gave up land when he gave Acco to the Crusaders in order to keep Jerusalem,” he said. “Therefore, I say that the possibility of the exchange of territories existed already in the history of Islam and it cohabitates with our principle that all of Palestine is a dedicated land from Allah, may he be blessed to the Muslims, and no one has the right to give up any part of it.”

There have been concerns that when it assumes control, Hamas may impose hard-line Islamic law on the Palestinians. Immediately following its election victory last month, Hamas gunmen placed the group’s flag on the Palestinian parliament building in Ramallah and reportedly announced Hamas will soon rule the area by Sharia law. Hamas reportedly has banned Western music events and established hard-line Islamic courts. Israel says the group has an “Anti-Corruption Unit” that enforces Islamic rules.

But the Hamas official told WND his terror organization will not impose Islamic law, “in order to reduce the hostility of the international community and the government of Israel [toward Hamas]. We will not take any initiative to change the way of life of the Palestinian people.”

Using the same words Meshaal used yesterday, the Hamas leader said, “I tell you we will surprise everyone with our new attitude.”

The leader explained his group will create a governing coalition it feels will help garner financial assistance from European countries, including allowing another party to hold the foreign affairs and internal security portfolios and likely keeping the PA’s current minister of finance, Salaem Fayyad, who largely is acceptable to the international community.

The Hamas leader said his group will not abandon its goal of destroying Israel.

“When I speak about a long cease-fire and a temporary agreement, it means that we do not recognize the right of the state of the occupation on our lands, but we will accept its existence temporarily,” said the leader.

The leader insisted the policies are based on the formulation Hamas will not be able to defeat Israel in the near future, but he said his group is confident it ultimately will be “victorious.”

“I do not see the Palestinian people and Islamic nation succeeding to liberate this blessed land of Palestine in the very near future,” he said. “This is an Islamic land and the Jews are invited to live in Palestine and the Muslims will guaranty their safety and honor. … But we will never give up our right for the whole of Palestine. We should be realistic to admit that the mission for the liberation of Palestine will pass on to the coming generations.”

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