mashaal, iran pres 298.8.
(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
Hamas' political leader in exile said Tuesday that Iran will have a "major role" in Palestinian affairs. But, Hamas leaders in the Territories told The Jerusalem Post that they are "not rushing" to embrace that role.
"The Ayatollah's regime will have a major role in Palestine," Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in a meeting in Teheran with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. "We trust Iran to help us deal with the challenges facing us today."
Mashaal is visiting Iran after a tour of Arab and Muslim countries in order to drum up political and financial support for the Hamas-led government.
The Palestinian Authority faces a serious financial crunch and possible collapse following the landslide Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian legislative elections. The US, EU and Canada have threatened to stop all support to the Palestinian Authority once Hamas takes control.
But Mashaal's relations with Iran are not considered positive by Hamas leaders living in the Palestinian Territories.
"Iran is a sensitive issue," newly-elected Hamas PLC member Ghazi Hamad told The Post in a phone call from Gaza. "We are not rushing to take money from Iran." Yet on Sunday Hamad told The Post that Hamas would "not reject any assistance from any country - Iran or any other."
Another Hamas PLC member from Gaza, Dr. Atef Adwan, told The Post that accepting Iranian money would make "Hamas a tool of [Iran's] policy and this is not good for Hamas and not good for the region."
According to the Israeli Hamas expert, Dr. Shaul Mishaal of Tel-Aviv University, accepting Iranian money is "very problematic from [Hamas'] point of view. Mishaal, who wrote a book on Hamas, said that accepting money from the most radical Islamic channel could destabilize Hamas. "There will be those who oppose the radical influence and there will be those who will become more radicalized and will think the movement is too moderate," he said. Mishaal noted that the Iranians cannot foot the bill for the Palestinian Authority. "Hizbullah costs them $40-50 m. a month," he said. "Here its $250-300 million."
Mashaal, in his meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister, said that "negotiations with Israel are a waste of time until Israeli leaders decide to leave the Palestinian territories."
However, later in the day when asked if Hamas would recognize the Jewish state's legitimacy, if Israel were to withdraw to the borders before the 1967 war, Mashaal told the gathering of Tehran University students at Shahid Chamran Hall it would not. "We will not recognize Israel at any cost," answered Meshaal, Agence France Presse reported.
But the man considered a terrorist by Israel and the US did not rule out negotiating with the superpower. "We are not satisfied with the measures taken by the US, given it being brutal and taking sides with Israel," Mashaal said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). "However, such dissatisfaction should not be taken as the intention to enter into war with the US."
Mashaal also said that "resistance" would not necessarily end once Hamas took the reigns of government. "Now that we are in power, it does not mean that the resistance will be halted," Mashaal told the students, AFP quoted him as saying. "No, since without resistance we would have not been able to free our lands," referring to the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
In what appeared to be a reference to the two poles of Israeli politics, Mashaal warned, "If the Israelis vote for security (in March 28 general elections) then they should leave our land, but if they vote for continuation of the occupation, then they will face resistance."
Mashaal arrived on Sunday night and met Monday with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Ahmadinejad urged Mashaal and other visiting officials to continue their "jihad" against the Jewish state. "Based on the international regulations, your future government could fight for liberation of your occupied land," the IRNA quoted him as saying, in an apparent reference to the Geneva Conventions that allow an occupied people to fight military targets.
Mashaal flew to Iran from Turkey and will return to Damascus Wednesday before traveling to Moscow, Hamas PLC member Ghazi Hamad told The Post. Israel and the US, who consider Hamas a terrorist group, accuse Iran of giving financial and material support to Hamas, though Teheran insists it only gives moral backing. While Iran called on the Muslim world to help support the Palestinians, it did not announce if it would indeed do as it bid.
Meanwhile, Arab League foreign ministers failed to agree at a meeting in Algiers Tuesday on an aid package for the Palestinians amid a dispute over commitments from each member state.
Only Saudi Arabia, Qatar and one other member of the league have contributed aid for the Palestinians. The Arab League's Secretary General Amr Moussa and Algerian State Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem appealed to other member states to contribute funds.
Moussa, said the plan by the EU and US to cutoff aid to the Palestinian Authority once Hamas takes over would "pose a serious political problem for the Palestinians. The aid is destined for the Palestinian people and not for Hamas."