Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- According to Dr. Izzat al-Rishq, member of the Hamas Movement’s Political Bureau, the Palestinian factions that signed the Cairo agreement are in continuous meetings to complete the discussion of all issues as soon as possible. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, he added that many meetings were held in Cairo both before and after the signing in order to take practical steps on the ground to show the Palestinian people that the agreement is not just ink on paper but rather a continuous action to restore the legitimate Palestinian rights.
Al-Rishq downplayed Israel’s threats and any attempt to liquidate Hamas members. In an interview conducted in Cairo, he said Israel did not present any settlement plan to the PA throughout the past four years during which the division existed. He also spoke about the agreement and the guarantee for its good implementation.
The following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What will happen after the signing of the reconciliation agreement and what are the priorities?
[Al-Rishq] We will step up the efforts to organize the work of institutions and will organize workshops to implement what we agreed upon, especially with regard to the package of Palestinian understandings that have been signed by all factions. They deal with elections. It was agreed to nominate no more than 12 judges to the membership of the elections court and to set a date for the elections that will be held one year after the signing of the reconciliation agreement.
The understandings also deal with the PLO status, security, and formation of a government. The task of the new government will be to oversee the handling of the domestic issues, follow the reconstruction works in the Gaza Strip, secure an end to the Israeli blockade, follow the implementation of the provisions of the national accord agreement, merge the PA institution in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and settle the status of societies and institutions. In addition, the understandings deal with the status of the legislative council. Agreement was reached to activate this council in accordance with the law.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you have the will and determination to protect this agreement?
[Al-Rishq] First of all, Israel’s stand and threat to Hamas and the PA too was expected because it benefited from the continuation of the division. Accordingly, it is eager to spoil everything, but we are interested in seeing the reconciliation succeed and hold because we suffered a great deal as a result of the division and paid a heavy price.
There is a genuine will to unite the ranks and consolidate the reconciliation. On the other hand, there is a new spirit in the region and in Egypt, which is sponsoring the reconciliation, regaining its health, and playing its role in the Arab nation. It is this spirit that helped us reach an agreement fast. We believe that Egypt is not only sponsoring the agreement, but also interested in protecting the agreement and ensuring its good implementation.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you explain Israel’s strong opposition to the agreement?
[Al-Rishq] Israel’s stand was expected, and its threats will not affect the agreement. Israel lost its credibility because no progress was made in the peace process and the Palestinian people achieved nothing during four years of division. Israel did not live up to its promises in that period.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you expect Israel to carry out assassinations against the Hamas Movement?
[Al-Rishq] To begin with, we always expect the worst from Israel. I believe that Israel is now floundering, and its stand is characterized by great confusion because of the Palestinian reconciliation. Therefore, it attempts to disrupt any move and even carry out assassinations. Every thing can be expected of Israel, but this threat will have no effect on us. Israel is losing continuously and being isolated at the international level at a time when the Hamas Movement and Palestinian people achieve more progress.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you view the [expected] declaration of a Palestinian state at the United Nations and the call to hold an international conference to resolve the Palestinian issue?
[Al-Rishq] First, the declaration of a state in September is a good effort, and we consider any recognition of the state a victory for the Palestinian people. We are interested in pursuing this effort. However, we are not contented with this effort. We must use all diplomatic and political options and the resistance in all its forms in order to secure our rights. We do not want to repeat the declaration of the state in 1988 (in Algeria) because nothing was achieved on the ground afterward. Therefore, we ask that gains be achieved on the ground after the declaration of a Palestinian state.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Going back to the agreement, are there any disagreements over the choice of the prime minister or the tasks of the government?
[Al-Rishq] We agreed quite clearly that the government will consist of competent nationalist figures and that the prime minister and ministers will be chosen by mutual agreement. The government will be formed from independent figures, and all Palestinian factions will agree on it. With regard to the tasks of the government, the basic law and the paper of understandings stipulate that the government will look after the citizens’ conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As for the political side, it will be within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian people’s interim leadership.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will Hamas be part of this leadership?
[Al-Rishq] Under an agreement that was signed in Cairo in March 2005, Hamas and all Palestinian factions will be part of this leadership.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What will be the composition of this interim leadership?
[Al-Rishq] It will consist of the factions’ secretaries general, the PLO Executive Committee, the speaker of the Legislative Council, the speaker of the [Palestine] National Council, and independent figures who will be named by mutual agreement. This leadership’s task will be to look into and decide Palestinian political and major crucial issues.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is Hamas considering transferring its headquarters from Syria to Cairo or any other capital, especially in light of the current situation in Syria?
[Al-Rishq] We would be pleased if Hamas had an office in Cairo even though the relationship between Egypt and Hamas is bigger than the issue of an office. There is no change in Hamas’s presence in Syria and Hamas will not leave Syria. We wish well-being and stability for all Arab states.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you considering moving to Gaza?
[Al-Rishq] Hamas will remain in its place in Syria.