mashaal 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas politburo leader Khaled Mashaal reiterated Wednesday that his group would not recognize Israel. In an interview published Thursday in the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat and cited by Maariv, Mashaal said he was willing to accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, as well as a hudna [truce] with Israel but not to recognize the "occupation."
Mashaal addressed reports Wednesday that said he had agreed to wide-ranging concessions in order to pave the way for a unity government in the Palestinian Authority. Although he refused to recognize the "legitimacy of the occupation," Mashaal admitted the "Zionist entity" was an established fact. "There is an entity whose name is Israel, yes, but I am not interested in recognizing it," said Mashaal.
The Hamas political chief also hinted at the possibility that his organization and the Hamas-led Palestinian government would recognize agreements with Israel the PA and PLO previously signed. "We will deal with agreements that have been signed and are on the ground according to the interests of the Palestinian people," Mashaal said. "If the serve the interests of my people, I will implement them."
Addressing the recent Qatari mediation aimed at bridging the rift between Hamas and Fatah and helping the Palestinians establish a national unity government, Mashaal said the effort had failed because of pressure on Hamas to accept the conditions set by the Quartet. Mashaal said he opposed the removal of the word "resistance" from the draft document that lays out plans for the unity government.
"I want to emphasize my right to resistance," Mashaal said. "As long as my people are exiled and my land is occupied, I have a legitimate right to resist the occupation." Mashaal also accused unnamed PA officials of plotting a coup against Hamas, and warned that Hamas would act forcefully to prevent any attempt to push forward elections in the PA.
He noted that if the international community found a way to give the Palestinians back their rights without an armed struggle, Hamas would adopt such a course of action since, Mashaal claimed, the armed struggle was only a means and not an end.
Mashaal accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of sabotaging a deal to bring about the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. US Consul-General in Jerusalem Jack Wallace accused Hamas of aborting Israel's release of Palestinian prisoners for Ramadan by its kidnapping of Shalit in June.
Mashaal denied reports that Damascus was torpedoing negotiations for Shalit's freedom. "There are two mistakes: the first is accusing Syria of trying to radicalize us and accusing us of being radicals. The decision on the Israeli soldier does not lie in Damascus and it is not tied to a particular geographical location. The decision depends on the movement's position. The second mistake is that Israel has so far rejected the principle of a prisoner exchange."
Mashaal said the issue of Shalit would not be influenced by fears that Israel would try to "punish" the Palestinians after he is released. The only factor, he said, was to work for the release of as many Palestinian and Arab prisoners as possible. "What [we] require is the release of 1,000 prisoners, women and children," Mashaal said. "The prisoners issue is a sensitive one - it is a human and political issue. There are 10,000 prisoners. This is a national concern. No one will dare to yield on this issue."
Mashaal also addressed remarks by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah that he would not have given the order to kidnap soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev if he had known what Israel's response would be. "I was not the one who gave the order to kidnap [Shalit] and I had no advance information on the operation," Mashaal said. "But I don't think there is anyone who has regrets about this brave operation, which I am proud of."
"One of [the enemy's] soldiers fell captive and he is a prisoner of war. Those who carried out [the operation] were thinking of the suffering of their brothers in the enemy's prisons. This is something we are proud of and do not regret," the Hamas political chief said.
Mashaal also addressed purported threats on his life by rival Palestinian groups and the "old" threat from Israel. "It's natural that these threats are coming from our enemies. With every threat against me, I feel pride that I am a thorn in the enemy's side. Whenever the enemy threatens my life, I feel that I amâ€¦ on the right path."
The Hamas chief said that he took the threats seriously, but was not frightened by them, because he had already been close to death.