Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Hamas chief Khaled Meshal called on Palestinian factions, particularly the Hamas and Fatah movements, to have the courage to criticize themselves and bear the responsibility for the mistakes they have made in the past.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat in Cairo following his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during which Fatah and Hamas took an important step towards reconciliation, announcing plans for Hamas to join the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], Meshal said “we must have the courage to criticize ourselves…for Hamas and Fatah have made repeated mistakes that we must acknowledge, whilst at the same time we must not blame one another.”
He added “everybody played a part in these mistakes, and so every [Palestinian] faction must bear a portion of the responsibility, and everybody must join forces to end the division, for such division is not in the Palestinian character, rather it was a state of emergency imposed upon us which we must today extricate ourselves from.”
Although the Hamas chief acknowledged the Palestinian people’s “concern and fear over the slowness of the reconciliation progress” describing this as a “legitimate concern”, he stressed that “we must not become trapped by this concern; rather we must react positively in order to achieve reconciliation, for we are all partners in this [reconciliation] project.”
Meshal expressed his optimism for inter-Palestinian reconciliation, saying this was due “not just as a result of this meeting [in Cairo], but of the previous meetings as well, for everybody is aware that there is a desire and keenness to complete this reconciliation, and this keenness was translated – in the last meeting – to decisions which we will work hard and sincerely to implement.”
The Hamas chief also stressed that “the homeland is more important than all the [Palestinian] factions, and we must reduce partisanship…Palestine is bigger than Hamas and Fatah and all the [Palestinian] factions, so let us extricate ourselves from this stage of egotism and partisanship, for Palestine is greater than all of this…it is the land of peace and cradle of prophecy, and everybody – Muslims and Christians – lived there together in peace and we must reactivate this spirit amongst ourselves.”
Meshal also stressed “we must say, in a clear voice, let bygones be bygones, and we must forget the past, we must put history behind us, for…we in Hamas and Fatah are brothers! It is true that each [Palestinian] faction has its own vision with regards to how to resolve the general issues relating to the homeland, but there are also many common areas where we [Hamas] can cooperation and work together with Fatah and with all the Palestinian factions. It is true that we do not agree [on all issues], but we will work together on those issues that we do agree on.”
He also told Asharq Al-Awsat, “we must have the courage to criticize ourselves, for we have all made mistakes, we all have our good points, and the difference between us is regarding who is prepared to work to achieve more…for we in the political arena are different in the way we deal with certain issues, but on every issue we can find common areas to work together and with all the Palestinian factions.”
The Hamas chief also cited the 2005 Cairo Agreement, the 2006 National Accord, the [Hamas – Fatah] Mecca Agreement, and the 4 May 2011 [Hamas – Fatah Unity] Agreement in Cairo as including joint programs that Palestinian factions can work together on.
Meshal added “for example, with regards to the resistance, there are certain differences, but each faction believes in the resistance, and today we can work together in the popular resistance which can be seen in the actions of the Arab people in the Arab Spring”. However he also stressed that “this does not cancel our right to use armed resistance.”
Attempting to reassure the Palestinian people about the future, Hamas chief Khaled Meshal also stressed that “the future is ours, not the occupations, for the great sacrifices of our people….will not be in vain. Israel is losing every day at the international level, and were it not for the hypocrisy of the western states and the US, Israel would not have survived in this manner. The results of the transformation that the region is witnessing, and the Arab Spring that is blooming, will no doubt be in the interests of the Palestinian cause, and these results will be seen in the near future.”
As for the PLO meeting headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo, Khaled Meshal stressed “for the first time since 2005 the issue of the PLO is on the table…and for the first time Hamas is taking part in PLO meetings…and we agreed to activate this and rebuild it via the election of a new national council and executive committee.”
He added “this meeting was agreed upon in advance, and it is not an issue of one party joining another…for nobody now can monopolize decision making; we are all partners, and we must all be partners in any decisions taken.”
As for when elections will take place, Meshal stressed “we confirmed that elections will take place in May , and we begun by agreeing on the formation of an electoral commission, and [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas agreed to this.”
He stressed “we must provide the appropriate atmosphere in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip [for elections], and allow freedom of political operation, for these elections will mean nothing if the signs of division continue, and our people remain in prison. What I am most concerned about is ensuring there is no Palestinian obstruction of the electoral process…as for the Zionist obstruction and interference…this is to be expected.”
Speaking about the new hopes that have been kindled for inter-Palestinian reconciliation, Meshal stressed “there are new circumstances and factors that urge us to extricate ourselves from this state of division. The first factor is that this division has become a burden for all Palestinians, it is a temporary aberration that has been imposed upon us, and so it was always a temporary state of affairs, not a permanent one. The second factor is that the political horizon has been limited…for those who said that reconciliation is not a priority have discovered after the [Palestinian – Israeli] negotiations that they cannot stay in this box, and that these negotiations reached a dead-end [as a result of the inter-Palestinian division], and so the best thing is to return to national [Palestinian] concerns, and resolving the internal situation.”