JERUSALEM, Israel - Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal continues to call for 'armed resistance' against Israel, following last week's reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas.
In a weekend interview with Reuters, Meshaal said armed resistance -- which could mean anything from suicide bombings to kidnappings, from rocket and mortar attacks to drive-by shootings or sniper attacks -- is a legitimate response to what Palestinians call the "Israeli occupation." According to the report, Meshaal said he hopes to persuade Fatah to pursue the same path.
Meshaal, who flew to Cairo last week to sign the Egyptian-mediated agreement uniting the two rival factions, called on Western nations to back the formation of a Palestinian state.
"The international position, especially that of the Europeans and the Americans, is still unclear, but we hope they respect our will and decision," he said.
Meshaal said within the context of the newly formed government, he would consult other Palestinian factions in addition to Fatah on how to accomplish their shared goals.
"How to manage the resistance, what's the best way to achieve our goals, when to escalate and when to cease fire, now we have to agree on all those decisions as Palestinians," Meshaal told The Wall Street Journal in Cairo.
The U.S. and several of its European allies insist the newly reconstituted P.A. government accept the three basic benchmarks stipulated by the Quartet (the U.S., E.U., U.N. and Russia) -- to recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism and accept previously signed Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
But Meshaal said the formation of a Palestinian state doesn't depend on recognizing Israel's right to exist and "resistance in all forms, armed and public ones" is the path Hamas advocates.
"Any occupier in the world never retreats voluntarily," he said. "It only retreats under pressure." Meshaal said, calling on the international community to pressure Israel, not the P.A.
"Israel needs pressure," he said. "It is an occupier that would not get out by conviction or through dialogue."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the unity deal from the outset, calling it a "tremendous setback for peace and a great advance for terror."
Last week, Netanyahu visited British Prime Minister David Cameron in London and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris to ask them to stand firm on Palestinian acceptance of the Quartet's benchmarks.
"The idea is not to establish a Palestinian state to continue the conflict, as Hamas wants," Netanyahu told reporters in Paris.
"If national unity is unity for peace, then we would be the first to support it," Netanyahu said. "But if it is unity to move away from peace and pursue the battle for Israel's eradication, we would oppose it and so should everyone else," he said.
Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon met with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Støre, and with Norway's State Secretary Espen Barth Eide, in Oslo on Friday.
Ayalon asked the Norwegians to cease transferring funds to the newly formed P.A. government, which could wind up financing terror groups.
The leaders also discussed the P.A.'s plan to declare unilateral statehood at the United Nations in September.
Following the meeting, Eide told reporters Norway supports the peace process while opposing "unilateral moves."
"Hamas must accept the Quartet's conditions, which are part of the Oslo Accords," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also called for the Palestinians to accept the Quartet's benchmarks.
But Meshaal says any decision on supporting Israel's right to exist will only come after the formation of a Palestinian state in the pre-1949 armistice lines, with Jerusalem as its capital.
"When we achieve Palestinian statehood…then the country will decide its policy," Israel Radio quoted Meshaal as saying. The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.