JERUSALEM – Hamas, which catapulted to power in last week’s Palestinian elections, might soon offer Israel a long-term cease fire but will not recognize Israel’s right to exist, the terror group’s chief Mahmoud al-Zahar told WorldNetDaily yesterday after earlier demanding the Jewish state change it’s official flag.

Al-Zahar’s comments follow a WND exclusive interview in which a top Hamas leader 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.

“I am not ruling out a long truce period with Israel during which we will hold back armed confrontation as long as the Israeli soldiers respect the truce and do not commit violence against the Palestinian people,” said al-Zahar, speaking to WND by cell phone from the Gaza Strip.

Israel routinely conducts operations against terror groups in Gaza and the West Bank aimed at halting suicide bombings, shooting attacks and rocket firing. Hamas openly targets Israeli civilians.

Al-Zahar deflected a question about whether he will modify Hamas’ official charter, which calls for jihad against Israel “by assaulting and killing.”

Earlier he demanded Israel “remove the two blue stripes from its national flag. The stripes on the flag are symbols of occupation. They signify Israel’s borders stretching from the River Euphrates to the River Nile.”

Israel’s national flag, adopted from a previously used Zionist movement flag, features a star of David within two blue stripes. The stripes signify the Talit, or Jewish prayer shawl, which is traditionally striped.

Al-Zahar’s statements regarding a possible long-term ceasefire coincide with a top Hamas leader’s outline to WND of a “peace initiative,” which the leader justified using Islamic tradition and said is 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 overall Hamas chief Khaled Meshal, who resides in Syria, 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 over 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. 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,” said the leader.

There have been concerns that when it assumes control, Hamas may impose hard-line Islamic law on the Palestinians. Yesterday, Hamas gunmen placed the group’s flag on the Palestinian parliament building in Ramallah and reportedly announced Hamas will soon rule the area by shariah 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. … 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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