RAMALLAH, WEST BANKAfter his militant Islamic party took the majority in Palestine's recent elections, Ismail Haniyeh called for a "giant summit with all living Israelis" Monday, rekindling international hopes for peace in the war-torn region.
Haniyeh characterized the one-day summit as "the final solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute," and invited every Jewish citizen of the world to attend. Haniyeh said he expects more than 5 million participants from Israel alone.
"It was foolish of us to think that a satisfactory resolution could be reached through small-scale aggression," Haniyeh said. "It will take more than the sporadic deaths of small groups of Israeli civilians to achieve our ends."
"This summit is long overdue," he added.
Haniyeh, who once said that Palestinian independence could only be achieved through the destruction of Israel, has apparently reversed his stance.
"It is clear to us now that a positive outcome will not be possible unless many, many sacrifices are made," Haniyeh said. "I give my word that the Israeli people shall have their cries for peace heard for miles around."
Haniyeh did not disclose the issues that will be discussed at the summit, saying only that he "would be very surprised if the entire process took longer than a couple of hours."
Haniyeh also extended an invitation to any high-ranking American official who would like to moderate the proceedings.
"We will achieve our goals with or without foreign help," Haniyeh said. "However, if George W. Bush or other top-level U.S. officials wish to attend, it would certainly make those first, most difficult steps a lot easier to take."
In a public statement Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad endorsed the "Hamas-led peace process," and offered the use of Tehran's Azadi Stadium as an "impartial location away from the distracting glare of publicity."
"It is about time for a summit of this nature," Ahmadinejad said. "The people of Iran will do anything they can to help further this crucial process."
According to Haniyeh, Israelis need only arrive with an open mind, insisting that the summit can have a positive outcome only if traditional and long-standing prejudices "are left at the door, along with any weapons, gas masks, or bulletproof vests."
"Security is of the utmost importance, which is why the summit will be watched over by my most loyal and experienced men," Haniyeh said. "To this end, every Israeli will also be marked with a six-digit protection number."
Hamas has already gone to significant lengths to ensure that Israeli Jews will be able to attend the summit, including transportation via specially chartered freight trains.
"Very much like a cleansing fire, the summit will wipe the slate of Arab-Jewish relations utterly and irreversibly clean," Haniyeh said. "By the end of our negotiations, those who walk out of the summit will be very pleased."
"With the blessing of Allah, we will soon see every last obstacle standing in the path to harmony exterminated," Haniyeh added. "Like the filthy dogs they are."
No official response to Hamas' summit proposal has yet been made. However, it is widely believed that acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet will propose an alternative mass summit to which Hamas party officials and their Palestinian supporters will be similarly welcomed.