Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Q & A with Hamas Politburo Member, Muhammad Nazzal | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

Q) Does Hamas hope to reestablish ties with Jordan?

A) The meetings in Amman were supposed to lay the foundations for new relations between the Jordanian government and the Hamas Movement. It is to be recalled that relations between the two parties were severed in 1999, and remained cool for approximately a decade. During that time, attempts were made to activate ties, but they failed. That state continued until the latest Hamas’s members visit to Amman and meetings with the Jordanian General Intelligence Department [GID] officials. So it can be said that the visit by a Hamas delegation to Amman will, God willing, usher in a new stage in relations free from the tension that marred (relations with Jordan) over the past few years.

Q) What developments led to this get-together? Which party initiated first contact?

A) In fact, the initiative came from the Jordanian GID, and was met with prompt response from Hamas; to be more exact, it can be said that both parties had a common desire to meet with one another.

Q) Have you reached an agreement or some sort of understanding with Jordan?

A) I can say that during the meeting some understandings were reached. We discussed some pending security files in an amicable atmosphere, and we are currently trying to solve them. We also discussed political issues relating to the core political position of Jordan and Hamas in particular. This is because there are common issues, and the Palestinian issue is for Jordan a domestic issue. We discussed these political files frankly, openly, and transparently.

Q) In your view, will Khalid Mishal, the Hamas Movement’s Political Bureau chief, visit Jordan in the near future?

A) In fact, nothing can be ruled out. While the talk of Mishal’s visit to Amman was reported by the media, in fact, this issue was not discussed during the meetings with the GID officials.

Q) Do you expect Hamas to open an office in Amman soon?

A) No, this issue was not discussed. We certainly wish the Hamas Movement to have some presence in Jordan, but the form and mechanism of such presence were not discussed with the Jordanians.

Q) Did Jordan set specific conditions? It was reported that Jordan asked Hamas not to intervene in the affairs of the Islamic groups in Jordan and not to carry out any security activities, such as recruiting people, and so on and so forth?

A) Neither party set any conditions. But, as I have said, we discussed numerous political and security issues and ways of strengthening bilateral relations, not on the basis of conditions, but on the basis of what each party clearly wants from the other.

Q) In your opinion, does the Jordanian move toward Hamas have anything to do with developments in the region?

A) We in the Hamas Movement are not concerned with the motives behind this shift in Jordan’s stand or move toward relations with Hamas. We viewed this move as a positive development and that we must respond positively and support it. Frankly speaking, we are not concerned with discussing the background or motives of the Jordanian move; the talk of motives and background concerns political analysts. In political activity, it is said that one must not look for intentions but results. We want practical and positive results of relations between Hamas and Jordan.

Q) Does this rapprochement have anything to do with Hamas’s apprehensions and its leaders’ search for a safe haven in case indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel may lead to a peace agreement between the two countries?

A) This is absolutely not true because we are not looking for havens for the Hamas Movement. We are looking for accord with all Arab and Islamic parties, particularly the neighboring countries, notably Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. These countries are neighboring Israel and relations with them must be of a strategic nature. So we are looking for accords and points of agreements with these countries, not for a haven. We do not feel any concern over the presence of the Hamas Movement in Syria because, based on our reading of the current political situation, we believe that a Syrian-Israeli agreement is still not close at hand.

Q) In your view, will relations between Jordan and Hamas have a negative impact on other countries, like, Egypt for example?

A) Rapprochement in relations with Egypt and Jordan must not be at the expense of other Arab countries, especially Egypt. We do not establish relations with one party at the expense of other parties, but we seek balance in relations among all Arab and Islamic parties. We are opposed to the policy of axes in the first place, and we are against the policy of taking sides with one party against another. We always seek balance in Arab relations whether with Hamas or with the Fatah Movement and the Palestinian presidency. So our rapprochement with Jordan must not be at the expense of relations with Egypt.

Q) In your meetings with the Jordanians, did you discuss Hamas’s relations with the Palestinian Authority and Fatah? In other words, is Jordan intending on bringing the two parties closer together?

A) In fact, all political files were discussed, including Hamas’s relations with the Palestinian presidency and the Fatah Movement. We explained our viewpoint that the intransigent party is the other party, and that there is a US veto which President Mahmud Abbas appears to be unable to bypass. Therefore, all attempts at rapprochement, dialogue, and reconciliation between the two parties come up against a US Brick wall. This is what we told the brothers in Jordan.

Q) Did Jordan react positively to this?

A) The Jordanian party realizes the difficulty of intra-Palestinian dialogue under the US veto. This is why we did not place any role for Jordan regarding this issue on the agenda of our meetings, though we welcome any Jordanian or Arab role in bringing about rapprochement between Hamas and the Fatah Movement. We know that the regional and Arab parties realize that these attempts would come up against a US brick wall. So in my view, these parties will not try to get involved in any intra-Palestinian reconciliation process unless there is a green light, specifically from the US Administration.

Q) Is this the same US brick wall you came up against and which led to your deportation from Jordan along with Khalid Mishal and Musa Abu-Marzuq in 1999? Wasn’t there US pressure at the time to deport you from Amman?

A) Certainly there was US pressure, but I think there was also Israeli and Palestinian Arafatist (the late President Yasser Arafat) pressure, as well as Jordanian considerations. All these factors combined played a part in harming our relations with Jordan and led to what happened in 1999. But we have to understand that the world has changed and that the situation cannot remain the same. There is nothing impossible in politics, and states, political parties, groups, and movements all look for their interests. So Jordan found that its interest does not lie in continued rupture of relations with Hamas, but in openness to Hamas and to other groups. This stand serves Jordan’s political interest. Openness to Hamas is a positive Jordanian step forward which we must appreciate, develop, encourage, and push forward. We must not question or have any suspicion about Jordan’s move, as this would only bring us back to square one. We are required to look forward and to read the Jordanian political step as a positive adjustment to the changes and circumstances that the region is going through.

Q) When did contact with Jordan begin and when did you agree to meet?

A) The first meeting took place on 21 July and the second meeting took place on Wednesday, 13 August.

Q) Did the shift that led to this rapprochement begin with Jordan or Hamas?

A) In my opinion, the question is not a shift in the Jordanian or in Hamas’s stand; it is an accurate and enlightened reading of the changes our region is going through. These changes impel all parties to look for equations that strengthen their position and achieve their interests. So I do not think this development should be reduced into a question of which party shifted its stance or which party initiated this step. This issue must be considered in a comprehensive way and from all angles. Regional developments require that all parties deal with them flexibly and wisely.

Q) Since rapprochement between Jordan and Hamas and their finding of a common ground between them has been possible, isn’t it more appropriate for Hamas to find a common ground with the Fatah Movement and the Palestinian presidency?

A) This rapprochement with Jordan will inevitably impel the other party to read the issue differently. In my view, when a party makes a mistake in exercising policy, this mistake could be the result of this party’s erroneous assessment of the realities on the ground. It could also be the result of lack of political will. I think that the Palestinian presidency and the Fatah Movement were erroneous in reading the situation when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. They believed that Hamas ‘s control of Gaza would be a predicament for Hamas and that Hamas would sooner or later fall down along with the authority it established in the Gaza Strip. This reading of the situation proved wrong, for Hamas has remained steadfast one and a half years since its control of Gaza. If the [Palestinian] presidency and the Fatah Movement now read the situation differently, what remains has to do with political will. The Palestinian presidency and the Fatah Movement do not have the political will to hold a real and serious dialogue with the Hamas Movement, or to hold a comprehensive Palestinian national dialogue. I am speaking frankly of the official Palestinian will, which is contingent upon US-Israeli will. There is no US-Israeli will for a serious dialogue between Hamas and Fatah that would result in rapprochement or agreement between them. So if we ask why rapprochement has been brought about between Hamas and Jordan and not between the friends who stand in the same trench — the comrades in the Fatah and Hamas movement — I think this has to do with political will.

Q) I gather from your argument that steps made to bring about an agreement between Hamas and Fatah would be futile in the absence of a political will?

A) I think the intra-Palestinian dialogue will be postponed until after the US presidential elections. The parties that want to unleash intra-Palestinian dialogue are waiting for the results of the US elections, because under the current US Administration there is a veto which the parties cannot bypass. So what is at issue is not an intra-Palestinian dialogue, but awaiting the results of the US elections, and whether (Democratic candidate) Barack Obama will be able to defeat (Republican candidate) John McCain. It would then be possible to bank on a Democratic administration to unleash a national Palestinian dialogue. This is the reading or the situation that the other party is waiting for.

Q) So you think that the talk of sending Egyptian invitations to the Palestinian groups to hold bilateral talks in preparation for a comprehensive dialogue is in this context?

A) First of all, Cairo has not addressed an invitation for an intra-Palestinian dialogue. It sent a paper containing a host of questions to learn the views of the Palestinian groups of the mechanism through which the Palestinian split can be addressed. Egypt is currently awaiting the response of these groups and on the basis of which it will decide whether or not to continue its efforts to unleash a national Palestinian dialogue. So it can be said that what is happening in this respect is no more than marking time, because Egypt will not take any step before the results of the US elections appear. So the Palestinians are being made busy discussing the issue of dialogue, but no real, serious steps have been taken to begin a dialogue. I do not think that the climate is now favorable for unleashing an intra-Palestinian dialogue.

Q) Have you conveyed his viewpoint to the Egyptian authorities?

A) Yes. We sent a message to the Egyptian authorities in reply to theirs expressing our viewpoint on Palestinian dialogue and the basis on which it may start.

Q) Let us go back to the issue of Jordan; while in Amman did you meet with other political figures?

A) No. Our meetings were confined to the GID director and a number of senior GID officers.

Q) Why?

A) Because we did not have enough time, and because we went to Amman to discuss a specific issue.

Q) Egypt has accused Hamas of stalling in reaching a deal regarding the Israeli captive soldier Gilad Shalit before getting Israeli guarantees that it will not attack Hamas leaders in Gaza, is this true?

A) This is absolutely not true. These are false and unfair accusations. We are eager to release Shalit because his release would mean the release of hundreds of Palestinian POWs. I do not think Hamas has an interest in keeping Shalit. However, Hamas does not want to release him for a cheap price as the Israelis want. We are clear in our stated position that we will not respond positively to any pressure to release Shalit in a deal that is not honorable. We are looking for an honorable deal that will achieve the objective for which we took him prisoner. So we reject any accusations that we hamper a deal. It is regrettable to hear statements condemning the Hamas Movement and acquitting Israel, which is the intransigent party that hampers a deal by setting impossible conditions that no honest Palestinian movement could accept.

Q) Do you think we will see an end to the Shalit and the POW issue soon?

A) I think solving this issue needs time because I believe that the Israeli leaders are not yet ready to pay the price for releasing Shalit. So unless some dramatic change occurs in the Israeli stand, his release will not come about in the near future.

Q) Are the reports that Hamas is looking for a new mediator instead of Egypt true?

A) We are not looking for a substitute to Egypt. Egypt remains the mediator, but other parties have contacted Hamas and asked to intercede. We said that the issue needs the agreement of all the parties concerned. We also said that we will not stand in the way of any party the wants to exert efforts to help release the POWs. The field is open to all to make moves, but we will not look for a new mediator other than Egypt.

Q) Are the parties that asked to intercede in this issue Arab or European?

A) Arab and foreign parties have offered to intervene and they expressed readiness to exert efforts in this respect.

Q) Was Qatar one of these parties?

A) I do not wish to elaborate further regarding these parties.