Meshaal: Hamas' West Bank resistance will continue

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told Al-Monitor in an interview that Hamas will continue to develop resistance in the West Bank against the Israeli occupation.

al-monitor Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal speaks during an interview with Reuters in Doha, Oct. 16, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad.
Adnan Abu Amer

Adnan Abu Amer

@AdnanAbuAmer74

Topics covered

palestinian authority, palestine, khaled meshaal, israel, iran, hamas, gaza strip, egypt

Dec 15, 2014

Hamas is committed to empowering popular resistance in the West Bank and Jerusalem against the Israeli occupation, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told Al-Monitor in an interview.

“Hamas will not stop building a resistance movement in the West Bank,” the Hamas leader said, adding that its work would continue despite security coordination against its activities between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Hamas has been accused by both Israeli and PA officials of playing a hand in inciting unrest in Jerusalem in past months.

Meshaal warned that the Israeli elections scheduled for March 2015 “are a source of real danger,” saying that Israel might seek to embark on military escalation against Gaza in the run-up to the elections.

Israel and Hamas signed a cease-fire deal in August after 51 days of fighting left over 2,000 Palestinians and 70 Israelis dead. Israel has yet to implement the terms of the cease-fire, namely the opening of the crossings and allowing construction material to enter.

Meshaal told Al-Monitor that “Hamas has many options” to deal with Israel’s failure to implement the cease-fire terms, but that “this does not mean that we are headed for war.” The Hamas leader urged Egypt to exercise pressure on Israel to abide by the cease-fire.

Concerning internal Palestinian affairs, Meshaal described the unity government’s performance as “unsatisfactory” and “regrettable,” but said he remained committed to the partnership with Fatah to “quickly overcome tensions.” The Hamas leader blamed “external factors” for “sabotaging and hindering the progress of the reconciliation effort.”

Responding to Egyptian media reports of Hamas’ involvement in a deadly Sinai Peninsula attack in October that killed dozens of Egyptian soldiers, Meshaal stressed that “Hamas never caused harm to Egypt” and “never meddled in Egyptian affairs.”

“What is going on in Sinai is an internal matter that we have nothing to do with,” he said, adding that Hamas has complied to its “best ability” with Egyptian requests to improve security along the Gaza-Sinai border.

Meshaal dismissed talk that his leadership would have to depart Qatar following the Gulf reconciliation deal, saying that Hamas’ relationship with Qatar remained “strong” and that Hamas endorsed the reconciliation.

Referring to the rise of jihadist groups in the region, Meshaal said that Hamas will stick to a “centrist moderate approach” and not fall into the path of Islamic radicalism. His comments come amid continued reports of the presence of Islamic State cells in the Gaza Strip.

Preparations were continuing for Meshaal’s visit to Iran, he said, without specifying an exact date for the anticipated trip.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Al-Monitor:  It would seem that the relationship between Hamas and Fatah has reached an impasse with regard to the management of Gaza. How can the current differences regarding the unity government be overcome and will that government’s term be extended?

Meshaal:  The progress of reconciliation is unsatisfactory and bogged down, which is both sad and regrettable. We know that external factors played a major role in sabotaging and hindering the progress of the reconciliation effort out of a desire to keep us divided.

But the relationship with Fatah is ongoing, for it is Hamas’ partner on the Palestinian political scene. We differ on a number of issues, but are keen on maintaining mutual relations and committed to quickly overcome tensions. We need to get the Palestinian house in order through holding elections within the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority and the Legislative Council, on a partnership basis.

Concerning the future of the government, I contend that this is a detail that must be discussed with Fatah, and a decision be made whether to extend or amend its term. The current unity government must perform its responsibilities, for it is subject to change, but with the consent of all Palestinians, and not unilaterally by one faction.

Al-Monitor:  Israel did not abide by the terms of the cease-fire agreement, most importantly, the opening of border crossings and the entry of building materials. What are the steps envisioned by Hamas in this regard?

Meshaal:  All previous truce periods have seen a lack of Israeli commitment. Israel always disavowed its obligations within weeks, and tried to impose new rules of engagement. But Hamas proved that it stands at the ready to confront, never relinquishing its options and rights.

Subsequent to the war on Gaza, changes occurred in the region that might tempt the enemy into disavowing its truce commitments. Circumstances arose that prevented the resumption of the second round of negotiations, but Hamas is abiding by the truce time frame and heeding the Egyptian mediator’s calls to follow up on those entitlements with the occupation forces. Even if no meetings were taking place right now, this does not absolve the enemy of its obligations, and we request that the mediator exercise pressure on Israel, despite the fact that we are not betting on the latter’s commitment.

Hamas has many options. This does not mean that we are headed for war. For previous wars were not of our choosing, but were imposed upon us. We are not warmongers, and are keen on maintaining our people’s safety, but Gaza has every right to break the siege, expedite reconstruction and build a seaport and airport.

Al-Monitor:  Hamas was candid about the latest events in Jerusalem. Is it trying to incite a religious intifada in Jerusalem and the West Bank?

Meshaal:  Hamas is ready for any Palestinian agreement regarding our resistance strategy, whether armed or popular, on occupied Palestinian lands or within the ranks of the diaspora. Until such an agreement is reached, Hamas will not desist from carrying out its stated strategies, and will remain committed to armed resistance.

Hamas will not stop building a resistance movement in the West Bank, and, despite security coordination against us, is keen on developing and empowering popular resistance there. We all witnessed the unexpected Palestinian reaction in Jerusalem, which proved that our people have an endless potential in store, and a creative ability to surprise everyone.

Al-Monitor:  Israel is headed for elections and a possible win by extremist right-wing parties there. What are your expectations in that regard, and how will those elections affect the Palestinian people?

Meshaal:  The upcoming elections are a source of real danger. Added vigilance and awareness are required because we have had bitter past experiences with Israeli elections. Hamas is not wagering on a particular faction to win, for the ballot boxes only bring to power hostile Zionist leaderships that want to do away with Palestinian rights.

But the Israeli elections have engendered three main manifestations: the first of which came in the form of Israel putting into action its plan to occupy Al-Aqsa Mosque; the second was when settlement activities were expanded, with more land grabs expected to occur; and the third was in the form of security and military escalation, which may target Gaza or other areas, and come to serve the agenda of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Al-Monitor:  Islamist political factions affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, such as the Ennahda movement, saw a decline in their popularity and influence in the region, while jihadist factions continued to grow. Where do you see Hamas in this equation? Will it become more moderate to attract broader Arab popular support, or will it lean toward radical Islam, in light of the spread of the jihadist phenomenon?

Meshaal:  The policies adopted by international and regional factions are driving moderate political movements toward extremism, as a result of them being excluded from the political process. Hamas, following the 2006 elections, as well as other political factions in a number of Arab countries, fell victim to these policies. But, as oppressed political powers, we must insist on adopting a moderate and centrist approach, and defend our right to partake in decision-making, in keeping with democratic norms.

The Islamists share the political scene with others, and do not appropriate it at the expense of others. They do not seek to exclude anyone, and reject the extremism or militancy that some international, regional and local powers espouse, which can only lead to wars that no one wants. We must insist on maintaining this centrist moderate approach, and avoid clashing with anyone.

On the Palestinian scene, Hamas has no fears about these phenomena, but I am concerned about the happenings in various Arab and Muslim countries.

Al-Monitor:  Egyptian officials and press have accused Hamas of involvement in the October attack that killed dozens of Egyptian soldiers in Sinai. What steps is Hamas taking to prevent the movement of fighters between Gaza and Sinai?

Meshaal:  Hamas never caused harm to Egypt, and is keen on maintaining its relationship will all components of the Arab world, as well as with Egypt, by virtue of its proximity, our shared history and its importance on the Arab and Muslim scenes. We were wronged by these accusations, and many Egyptian officials, when asked, admit that Hamas is keen on preserving their national security.

Hamas never meddled in Egyptian affairs. Our leadership and administrative units complied to the best of their ability, when the Egyptians asked us for help in maintaining their security. We hope that a change might occur in the media and political atmosphere that is trying to drag Hamas into Egyptian affairs.

What is going on in Sinai is an internal matter that we have nothing to do with. We do not want it to come at our expense or exacerbate the suffering in Gaza. We hope that Egypt will open the Rafah crossing and lift the siege imposed on Gaza. We reiterate that the unity government is in charge of supervising the crossing. It is only normal for the crossings to be opened, and nothing but good will come to Egypt from Gaza.

Al-Monitor:  What is the status of Hamas leaders in Qatar after the Gulf reconciliation. Will its leaders be asked to leave?

Meshaal:  Hamas endorses the latest Gulf accords. But these accords have nothing to do with Hamas’ relationship with any state, and our relationship with Qatar will not be affected as a result. For Hamas was not one of the contentious issues that marred Qatar’s relationship with Gulf states, and we are not party to any dispute. The relationship with Qatar is strong and unwavering to the point of being immune to any negative or positive developments that may affect internal relations.

Al-Monitor:  Despite pressure by Israel and its Western allies, Turkey maintained its relations with Hamas. Is there a breaking point for the relationship between Hamas and Turkey, and what is the nature of the help that you expect to receive from Ankara?

Meshaal:  The relationship with Turkey is a good one, despite Israeli incitement against it after the Gaza war, at the hands of Netanyahu and various American and European Zionist factions who put pressure on Turkey and Qatar, distorted their image as a result of their support for the Palestinian cause and tried to deprive Hamas of Arab and Muslim support. But these factions will not comply with such contemptible incitement, and Hamas is not worried in this regard.

Al-Monitor:  During festivities commemorating the founding of Hamas today in Gaza, the [Izz ad-Din al-] Qassam Brigades explicitly thanked Iran. Was that the result of your leadership delegation’s recent visit to Tehran?

Meshaal:  There is no rupture of relations between Hamas and Iran. In resisting occupation, our shared history is long. Its support to us extended over many years, but there was a difference of opinion vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis, which affected some aspects of our relationship, although it never reached a breaking point.

The visit of Hamas’ delegation to Iran came in the context of bolstering contacts and relations, and my own visit there shall occur in due time, once preparations are completed.

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