MIDDLE EAST: Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal says pressure should be increased on Israel
It's time for Israel to feel the heat.
"The pressure should now be redirected towards Israel," Mashaal said in an interview with Romanian researcher Manuela Paraipan last week. "It is immoral to keep pressuring the Palestinians simply because the Americans and the international community are failing in the face of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu."
Mashaal was 11 when the 1967 Arab-Israeli war forced him and his family to leave Palestine for Jordan and 33 when his group carried out its first known attack against Israel. In 2004, he became the group's political leader, despite living in exile in Syria, where he continues to advocate armed resistance.
Paraipan, of the Bucharest-based Middle East Political and Economic Institute, sat down with Mashaal for a wide-ranging discussion that touched on Hamas’ ongoing commitment to armed resistance and its vision for a future Palestinian state.
Mashaal credited the success of Hamas in the post-Oslo period with the group's ability to offer an "alternative" to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian leadership. Paraipan pressed him on it.
"What was not accomplished by Oslo has been achieved through our resistance," he told Paraipan. "It compelled [Ariel] Sharon to withdraw from Gaza and to dismantle the settlements.... Should we see our role as providing security for the Israelis, or should we seek a national outcome in favor of the Palestinian people?"
Paraipan questioned Hamas' commitment to armed resistance in light of its participation in the political process.
"We do believe in political work in all its aspects," he told Paraipan. "However, we select the most appropriate type of activity for every stage in the campaign. When there is occupation and people suffering under occupation, the strategic response must be resistance -- a steady and unwavering line of resistance until the occupation is brought to an end.... In 2006 we decided to take part in elections, but we did not do this as an alternative to resistance.... There is no contradiction here."
And when will the "resistance" end?
"When the occupation ends," he said, before adding, "because Hamas is realistic, we have come to an agreement among the Palestinian factions and Arab countries to accept the established state of Palestine on the basis of the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as the capital, and the right of refugees to return. The biggest compromise has already been made by the Palestinian factions and the Arab states. It was to accept the 1967 borders, leaving us 20% of the whole piece of territory in dispute."
Read the interview in its entirety here on Open Democracy.
-- Meris Lutz in Beirut
Photo: Khaled Mashaal acts as political leader of Hamas from Damascus, Syria. Credit: Karim Jaafar / AFP/Getty