(Asharq Al-Awsat) What are your thoughts on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s statement that he would not negotiate with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas if he implemented the partnership agreement with Hamas?
(Mishal) We pay no attention to such Israeli positions. What matters to us in the Palestinian arena is the agreement we reached in Mecca and we will cling to it and will stand up to external challenges. I am embarking on a tour of a number of Arab, Muslim, and foreign countries, so is President Mahmud Abbas, to garner support for the agreement.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) But he then changed his mind and expressed his readiness to negotiate with you saying it is not reasonable that Mishal who represents 50 percent of the Palestinian people rejects dialogue with us and rejects peace?
(Mishal) Irrespective of what has been said, the key (to a solution) and the required steps are for Israel to recognize the Palestinian people’s rights, withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and acknowledge the Palestinian national rights and demands. We are fully aware that Israel is selling us words and we know the goals behind such talk. Israel occupies the land, profanes the holy places, refuses to recognize the Palestinian people’s rights, continues to detain thousands of Palestinians, and transgresses against our land and rights. What counts is what is happening on the ground, not words. We agreed in Mecca that the Palestinian Authority President and PLO chairman is the one who will negotiate (with Israel). When he reaches results, he will set forth what he has reached to the Palestinian legislative institutions.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) What are your expectations of the Quadripartite (Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, and UAE intelligence chiefs) security meeting with Condoleezza Rice?
(Mishal) Regardless of what the United States wants some Arabs to do, I think there is a good measure of Palestinian-Arab understanding that allows us to make effective moves to get closer to our national goals. I think that for numerous considerations the Arabs will back the Mecca agreement. What assures me to some extent is that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria asserted that they will support this agreement. This would help build an Arab stand that will protect this agreement for some time. I feel that the Americans are facing a real dilemma. The Mecca agreement took Condoleezza Rice by surprise. The Americans are moving in the region to bolster Bush’s plan and prepare for dealing a strike against Iran. They are working with a number of Arab countries to contain some hotbeds that the United States regards as rebellions, i.e. Hezbollah, Hamas, and Syria. To offset these moves, the United States wants to show that a political process is under way. I maintain that the Americans do not have any plan for a settlement, and all that they are propagating is not serious.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) It has been recently reported that Saudi Arabia is mediating between Hamas and Jordan to normalize relations between them?
(Mishal) There is no Saudi mediation efforts between us and Jordan, and none of our Saudi brothers have told us of such mediation efforts. We in Hamas are very keen on extending bridges to all Arab and Muslim countries. We have our independent decision and we balance between maintaining our independence and avoiding interference in Arab axes.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) There are differences of views between Hamas and Fatah over the concept of partnership, something that threatens the national unity government, how would you comment on these differences?
(Mishal) This issue requires that we deal with it seriously and find a solution. Certain issues relating to partnership cause concern to some people in Hamas and Fatah. We will overcome these difficulties and form the government, God willing. The forthcoming stage will see that serious steps are taken toward partnership between the two movements and later among all Palestinian forces. There are some details about the independent figure that Hamas will propose to hold the post of interior minister. Honestly speaking, Hamas and Fatah are working in good spirit toward this goal. The general mood is positive and is conducive to accord. We will not differ over anything.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Domestic infighting has harmed you all?
(Mishal) I concede that Hamas made some mistakes and I courageously admit our mistakes, but they are limited mistakes that came in the context of reaction and defense of the legitimacy. Nevertheless, we must turn over this page of which we are not proud. I hope that it will be erased from our history. What happened has harmed us all, but we must turn over this page. Hamas has not changed its policy that proscribes Palestinian blood. What happened is a rare exception.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) The United States calls some Arab countries moderate and some others are not, how do you adjust your relations with the Arab countries?
(Mishal) Our relations with the Arab countries do not follow this US classification. Hamas maintained its relations with Arab countries that are classified by the United States as (moderate). These countries supported us with funds. We do not view the Arab countries in general from a perspective of being linked to this or that international power. We deal with the positive aspects in relations with these countries to serve our cause. The Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, did not consult with the Americans when he invited us to the Mecca meeting. He acted from his magnanimous Arab sentiments and Islamic concern for Muslim blood. May God recompense him for his good deed. When his call received positive response, the invitation assumed a political dimension, culminating in the Mecca agreement. If the Arab order had been absolutely bad, we would not have been able to make any move.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you expect the Mecca agreement to survive?
(Mishal) From my point of view, I expect the Mecca agreement to succeed for a period of time in view of current objective circumstances and Arab support for it. I am convinced that even if the Mecca agreement will not achieve all that we aspire to, suffice it that it has put an end to domestic infighting and staunched Palestinian blood.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Are the Arab countries capable of breaking the siege against the will of the United States?
(Mishal) I think the Arab countries may break the siege in part even if the United States rejects such a move, because the Mecca agreement was based on a common ground of new changes. We notice some division in the international Quartet’s position, and Russia’s stand is good. I am confident that the siege will be partially broken, which will give our people an opportunity to be prepared for the forthcoming stage. In addition, a European country has pledged to offer $120 million to the Palestinian Authority after the national unity government is formed. We will take advantage of all these developments to break the siege.