Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed this weekend's celebrations in Gaza — marking the 25th anniversary of Hamas and the arrival of Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal — telling his cabinet on Sunday that the event proved that the Palestinians did not intend to compromise with Israel.
Referring to the fiery anti-Israel speeches made by Hamas officials at the rally, the prime minister said that "In the last 24 hours we glimpsed, once again, the true face of our enemies. They have no intention to compromise with us, they want to destroy our country, and obviously they will fail. Throughout our history, the people of Israel have always overcome such threats."
On Saturday, in a defiant speech during his first ever visit to Gaza, Mashaal told a mass rally he would never recognize Israel and pledged to "free the land of Palestine inch by inch."
"Palestine is ours, from the river to the sea," Mashaal said, referring to all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, including Jerusalem.
On Sunday, Netanyahu slammed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for failing to condemn the inciting Hamas remarks. "Sadly, Abbas is working toward reunification with Hamas, which is supported by Iran. He didn't condemn the calls to wipe out Israel, just like he didn't condemn the rockets that were fired [from Gaza] at Israel," the prime minister said.
Netanyahu stressed that he was ready to withstand international pressure and vowed that he would not abandon Israel's interests. "We want true peace with our neighbors," he said. "But we don't shut our eyes. We don't bury our heads in the sand."
"We refuse to repeat the mistake of unilateral withdrawal, and other withdrawals that essentially gave rise to Hamas' power in Gaza," Netanyahu said, referring mainly to the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from settlements in Gaza.
"I am always amazed at the delusions of those who are willing to continue this process and call it peace," Netanyahu continued.
On Saturday, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, also condemned the comments and called them an obstacle to peace.
"Today we heard from Hamas in Gaza a hateful and extremist message, a message that says no to peace and no to reconciliation, a message that says every Israeli man, woman and child is a legitimate target."
"That sort of extremism won't help peace, the opposite is true. And I would ask Palestinian [Authority] President, Mr. [Mahmoud] Abbas, if you see Hamas as a political partner, what does that say about your dedication to peace," Regev said.
"We heard a very crystal clear message of hate that Israel should be destroyed and that the Jewish state should be wiped out of the map," he said.
Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of Israel but its leaders have, at times, indicated a willingness to negotiate a prolonged truce in return for a retreat to the 1967 borders, something Mashaal made no mention of at Saturday's event.
Mashaal, born in the West Bank in 1956, left with his family for exile in 1967 after Israel captured the territory. He now spends his time between Cairo and Qatar, and was expected to cross back into Egypt on Sunday or Monday to resume his position as Hamas' key point person with foreign donors.
Saturday's rally in Gaza, marking 25 years since Hamas was founded, was attended by hundreds of thousands of people — Hamas supporters from Gaza and the entire Arab world — including Hamas' top leaders, namely Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
The group decorated the speakers podium with a huge model of an M-75 rocket — the type of rocket Hamas fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during the latest round of violence.
Mashaal arrived in Gaza on Friday through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, accompanied by his deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk, and other senior Hamas officials. According to Arab media reports, Mashaal wore a bulletproof vest throughout his Gaza stay.
Mashaal, who kissed the ground when he entered Gaza, said Friday that "God be blessed. My dream is to die as a martyr for Gaza and for Jerusalem. We will not stop at 1967 borders, we will continue to 1948 borders, until the liberation of occupied Palestine. We will continue to be a thorn in the Zionist enemy's side."
A Hamas military spokesman also took the podium, saying, "we will continue on the path of Ahmed Jabari," the Hamas military commander who was assassinated by Israeli forces on Nov. 14, sparking Operation Pillar of Defense. "We vow to continue the jihad (holy war) and the resistance until we vanquish the occupation and purify our holy sites. All of Gaza thanks Turkey and Iran for supporting our resistance."
Mashaal, who took the stage to the sound of cheers and adoration, said that "the crimes of Israel against the Palestinian people, our land and our holy sites, only serve to intensify our continued resistance. We will remain loyal to Jerusalem, to al-Aqsa and to our holy places and we won't give up a single inch of occupied Palestine."
"The Zionist enemy will continue to suffer defeats until they are gone from here," Mashaal continued. "We are not afraid of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. We are not afraid of anyone. We will continue with the resistance until we achieve victory. Palestine is Arab and Muslim. We will not recognize the Israeli occupation. Israel and the occupation are not legitimate. Israel's attempts to falsify history and falsify facts will fail."
In a jab directed at Abbas, who told Israeli television last month that he does not intend to return to his birthplace, Safed, Mashaal said that, "we won't give up Jerusalem or Haifa or Beersheba or Safed."
Mashaal also mentioned Operation Pillar of Defense, the latest round of violence between Israel and Gaza terrorists which ended with a cease-fire agreement last month, saying, "resistance is not a goal, it is a means. I ask of the world: If you know of a different means of liberating Palestine and Jerusalem and the refugees, please tell us. We have been trying for 64 years, and only resistance has proven effective."
"We are not fighting the Jews for being Jews, but rather the Zionists and their aggression, for having stolen our land," Mashaal added.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman later issued a response to the rally, saying that, "the bombastic declarations and boastful words in Gaza come only as an effort to mask the great blow Hamas suffered during Operation Pillar of Defense. The proof is the fact that since the day the operation ended, there has been complete calm in the south and they haven't dared shoot or provoke Israel again."