Hamas offers truce to Israel in exchange for lands seized in 1967

October 6, 2007

DAMASCUS (Milli Gazette) -- In an exclusive interview with the Delhi-based The Milli Gazette, Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal said that “things are moving in our favor. It is true that we are badly suffering. The siege is harsh. But the fact remains that Israel too is no longer able to settle things against us.”

The interview was conducted with the Hamas leader in Damascus by the Gazette editor Zafarul-Islam Khan.
Hamas leader reiterated in the interview his movement’s stand on the “acceptable minimum” in a peace deal with Israel while hinting at the same time that anything acceptable to the Palestinian people in a plebiscite will be acceptable to Hamas which, he said, has accepted the democratic game and will accept its results too.
New situation favors Palestinians
Hamas leader said that “Things are no longer in favor of Israel. True, it is mightier than us but it is no longer able to defeat us. This means that the future belongs to resistance and to the Palestinian people and not to Israel which relies on aggression. Occupation has no future.”
Participation in elections was a necessity
Justifying his movement’s participation in elections and government, Meshaal said that the Palestinian Authority came via Oslo in 1994. Many years have passed since during which the Authority became a fait accompli. It is now ruling the Palestinian people and controls their daily lives. Hamas accepted to take part in the polls last year on popular demand “because of the evils and the mistakes committed by the Authority in political, financial and security fields and because of its stand against resistance.” He added that there is no state without sovereignty over the land. Meshaal said that his organization’s “basic assumption continues to be that the priority is for liberation and that there should be no talk of real state or real power or real authority except when we achieve sovereignty.”
Hamas win exposed the latent problem
Meshaal rejected that Hamas is responsible for the hardship in the occupied territories since it came to power over a year ago. “The hardships only exposed the real nature of our problem, he said, adding that “The problem existed already and our elevation to power only exposed the problem and its cause. This is part of the challenge we face.” He said that the U.S. and Israel wanted the Authority to be an autonomous regime committed to stop resistance and to be bound by security obligations towards Israel.
“The U.S. and Israel did not accept Hamas coming to power through the ballot box because they do not want an authority committed to resistance. They do not want an authority which safeguards the security of its people instead of taking care of the security of Israel. They want an authority which does not permit resistance,” he said.
Minimum acceptable to the Palestinian people
Replying to a question about the minimum acceptable to the Palestinian people, Meshaal appeared ready to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
He said, “We agreed on a common denominator acceptable to all Palestinian factions including Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, Popular Front, Democratic Front and others.”
This common denominator, according to him, is “to establish the Palestinian state within the areas of 1967 on the borders prevailing on the 4th of June 1967 including Jerusalem, right to return -- not right to return to the Palestinian State as some in the region explain it but the right to return to the towns and villages taken away from the Palestinian people.”
Dialogue with Fatah
Replying to another question if there was any dialogue between Hamas and Fatah, Meshaal said that “Some leaders of Fatah tried to start a dialogue with us, made contacts with us and we too positively responded to them, but later those leaders were ordered not to engage us in dialogue. It is the Authority in Ramallah and the government of Salam Fayyad which prohibits dialogue with us...”
Problems arose due to rejection of Hamas electoral victory
Asked about the situation in Gaza after Hamas’s takeover last June, Meshaal quoted an Arabic couplet which says, “He was thrown in the well, with both hands tied, and told/ Beware, you must never get wet.”
He went on to say that “Hamas came to power through the ballot box and free and fair elections. It did not come from outside Palestine -- Hamas’ legality emanates from its struggle and from its political legality by winning an election -- But -- it is not allowed to rule even for a single day.
No sooner it won elections than it was denied power. Both America and Israel conspired against Hamas. From here started the problems.”
On the problems Hamas faced after its electoral win, Meshaal said, “Even after the Mecca Agreement (2 March 2007), General Dayton arrived in order to coordinate with a certain party in the Palestinian arena as well as with other security officials in the region with the aim of undermining the national unity government ushered in by the Mecca Agreement. They supported this particular party with over one hundred million dollars in addition to arms and training. Hamas, then, is a victim, not a villain -- the Palestinian people were punished and placed under siege so that they would shun Hamas.”
Takeover of Gaza
Speaking about the takeover of Gaza by Hamas last June and the alleged violations by its militias, Meshaal said, “These issues started because of this conspiracy to stage a coup against the legitimate government and this in turn led to what happened in Gaza Strip -- what happened in Gaza was a coup by a party which sought support of the Americans and the Israelis against its own legitimate government. Like any other government facing coup, what should this government do? Should it not defend its legality? Hamas only defended its constitutional and democratic legality in the face of a conspiring party in cahoots with its enemies. This is why things slided to what happened in Gaza.”
He denied that Hamas threw people from rooftops and said that in fact the other party did it while searching for bearded people in Gaza.
Meshaal said that Salam Fayyad government in Ramallah has arrested hundreds of Hamas leaders and cadres. It has shut down around 500 charitable, social and cultural organizations in the West Bank and has stopped the salaries of 11,000 government employees in Gaza. Electricity has been cut off. Rafah checkpoint, linking Gaza to Egypt, has been closed down.
“This pressure is a kind of war against us,” he said, adding that “This is why you find the government in Gaza defending itself. We do not forbid people to pray in public squares but people have to respect general law and order. Whoever wants to pray does not go out to stone the offices of security forces. The government was silent during the first few weeks but when these people continued to go after prayers to commit illegal and disruptive acts, the government stepped in to stop this chaos.”
Meshaal accepted that there were some cases of transgression. “I know that there are some actions which require examination. But the fact remains that all this comes in the context of reaction to this pressure. The world has to realize that what is happening in Gaza is unnatural,” he said. He said that Gaza is a small place - just 30x60 sq. kms in which one and a half million people are crammed in. “They are living under siege, in a big prison. This pressure leads to explosion.” Meshaal said that “the U.S. and Israel did not accept Hamas coming to power through the ballot box because they do not want an authority committed to resistance. They do not want an authority which safeguards the security of its people instead of taking care of the security of Israel.”
Ties with foreign powers
Meshaal said that Hamas maintains strong ties with Arab, Islamic, regional and international players. He described Hamas’s relations with Russia as “excellent.”
Meshaal said that Hamas is not ready to submit to balance of power. “All nations in the world have struggled, endured and refused to give in to the tyranny of the balance of power. There is international injustice. Balance of power permits Israel to kill and assassinate with impunity. Balance of power did not come to the rescue of the Palestinian people and did not help them to retrieve their rights.”
Meshaal welcomed the signs of a new emerging Russian-Chinese bloc, saying that “Since the U.S. became the sole world power, the world has seen more and more wars, more aggression, more bloodshed, more preventive wars and control of the American politics by the Conservative Right.” He said that he believes it is in the interest of the whole world that “there should be a balance in world power.”
Hamas’ conditions to resolve the problem with Fatah
Meshaal said that there are now two governments in Palestine. “There is a government in Ramallah and another one in Gaza Strip.” But, he said, Hamas is ready to resolve the issue in the light of clear and just principles, which, according to Meshaal are:
1 - Unification of the West Bank and Gaza;
2 - One political system in both the wings. “We want one authority and one government, not two governments;”
3 - The Palestinian legality with all its components should be respected instead of being limited to the President of the Authority Mr. Abu Mazen. The elected legislative council too has its legality;
4 - Recourse to law which has been suspended by President Abu Mazen;
5 - Dealing with the basic problem, i.e., the security agencies, on the basis of their reorganization patriotic and professional lines “in order to make them accountable to the government, the interior minister and the Authority instead of security agencies factions belonging to factions, Fatah and Hamas alike;”
6 - Let a government of national unity be formed in the West Bank and Gaza under the Palestinian Authority. Commenting on these demands, Hamas leader said “We are not asking for the moon. We are asking for what is logical.”
Popularity of Hamas is intact
Meshaal rejected the idea that the popularity of Hamas has dwindled in Gaza since the takeover last June. He said “Let anyone wishing to know facts, visit Gaza and see for himself what popularity means.” Meshaal pooh-poohed the opinion polls in Palestine which he described as “paid and managed.”
Not ready to accept Oslo, but --
Meshaal rejected that Hamas is ready to accept Oslo. “(Hamas) adheres to all the rights of the Palestinian people. It adheres to Jerusalem, right to return, liberation of the Palestinian land. Hamas rejects the legality of occupation. These are permanent positions of Hamas Movement.”
Yet, he indicated that Hamas position is not rigid. It is ready to accept a common minimum program acceptable to all Palestinians. “We felt that it is beneficial that Palestinians of all political and ideological hues should meet and subscribe to a common program. We agreed on a common denominator acceptable to all Palestinian factions -- (they) all agree on the following: to establish the Palestinian state within the areas of 1967 on the borders prevailing on the 4th of June 1967 including Jerusalem, right to return -- not right to return to the Palestinian State as some in the region explain it but the right to return to the towns and villages taken away from the Palestinian people.”
He hastened to say that this common minimum program to some is “their final aim” but it is not the final aim of Hamas. “Our stand in Hamas is that we will offer truce to Israel instead of recognition. This is the perspective of Hamas. It has not changed. We support a state within the 1967 borders including Jerusalem, right of return (of the refugees), no (Israeli) settlements in our territory, total sovereignty of all 1967 lands. In return we offer only truce instead of recognition of Israel. There are rights of the Palestinian people which must be taken into account,” said explaining the position of Hamas.
He said that any other solution will be unacceptable even if agreed to by the Palestinian Authority. But, he added. “We accept what the Palestinian people accept. We have accepted the democratic game and we accept the democratic results. We have faith in our people to whom belong the rights and options.”.