Meshal refused to make concessions on any of the points Obama mentioned--renouncing the use of violence (although he did say that Hamas was willing to discuss a formal ceasefire), recognizing the state of Israel or the prior commitments made by the Palestinian Authority to a peace process. I asked him about this portion of the speech:It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
"Palestinian actions are reactions. What Palestinians do is to resist the occupation," he said. "It is self-defense. Why did the Americans support the Mujaheddin against the Soviets in Afghanistan? Why did the British support the French agains the Nazis? Why did you have a revolution against the British? Self-defense."
I made the obvious point about the difference between self-defense and targeting civilians. "But civilians die in wars," one of Meshal's aides pitched in. "You call it collateral damage."
You know, I'd like to say that Hamas is the only entity I've met that doesn't understand the distinction between deliberately targeting civilians and collateral damage, but they're not.