Hamas is committed to holy war against Israel, its leader Khaled Mashaal affirmed on Wednesday, one week after it signed a reconciliation pact with Fatah.
“Our path is resistance and the rifle, and our choice is jihad,” he said, in his first public comments since the deal with Fatah was announced.
Mashaal spoke by phone to hundreds of Palestinians who attended the funeral of Hamas terrorists Adel and Imad Awadallah.
Israel handed the bodies of the two brothers to the Palestinian Authority more that 16 years after IDF soldiers killed them outside Hebron.
Mashaal said that in wake of the failure of the peace talks with Israel, the Palestinians were in need of a unified political decision and a joint strategy that would lead to the “liberation of our lands and holy sites and the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes.”
The Hamas leader voiced optimism over the prospects of success for the unity agreement, which Fatah and Hamas signed in Gaza Strip on April 23.
He added that while Hamas was in favor of political and diplomatic action against Israel in the international arena, “there is no past or future without jihad and resistance. Jihad is our path.”
Another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, said the unity pact with Fatah would not change his movement’s position toward Israel.
The deal does not mean that Hamas would recognize Israel’s right to exist or that Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip would have to report to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Zahar said.
Zahar said that Abbas decided to strike the deal with Hamas after the US-sponsored peace talks failed to achieve progress. He claimed that Abbas was facing huge pressure from the Americans because of the unity accord with Hamas.
This was the reason Abbas was not in a rush to start consultations over the formation of a unity government, Zahar said. Abbas wants to guarantee continued American financial aid to the PA, he said.
A Fatah official in Ramallah responded to Zahar’s remarks by saying that they do not help the case of unity and may even hinder its implementation.
A government official in Jerusalem responded to the remarks by saying that they “speak for themselves and expose the myth that Hamas has somehow changed or moderated its positions.”
Hamas “remains an extremist jihadist organization committed to the destruction of Israel,” the official said.
“It is clear that Palestinian leaders cannot come to Israel and say they want peace if they forge an alliance with these killers,” he said, referring to Abbas.
Nevertheless, Israel’s message to the international community is that if Abbas reneges on the pact with Hamas, or if it falls through, the direct talks that fell apart last week could be restarted.
However, he said, if the Palestinian unity accord is “consummated” and a Palestinian unity government backed by Hamas is established, “we will look at what the alternatives are.”
The official said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has initiated a “process of discussion to explore what the policy options are.”
“Working discussions” have begun, and Netanyahu has called on cabinet ministers, as well as people from outside the government, to present their policy ideas, he said.
“We don’t want a situation whereby because of Palestinian extremism, the only option is the status quo,” the official said.