London, Asharq al-Awsat – Hamas will not negotiate with Israel or repeat the mistakes of the past, according to its leader in the Occupied Territories.
In an interview with Asharq al Awsat, Mahmud al Zahar, said his earlier statements in English to Radio Israel went as follows: “Negotiation is not our intention. It is a means to an end for us. If the goal is to liberate our territory and free our prisoners from Israeli jails and if the aim is to rebuild what the Israeli occupation has destroyed over many years, then we support negotiations.”
The Islamic resistance movement, he said, lacked a negotiation program and added, “Under what capacity will we negotiate? Hamas is not a government.”
Commenting on “the [failed] experiment of the Palestinian Authority which adopted talks as a strategic choice over the past twelve years”, al Zahar said, “We do not wish to repeat that.” In his opinion, Israel did not intend to respond “to the Palestinian people’s demands as it proved when it cancelled the last two meetings between [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen.”
The Hamas chief was clarifying earlier statements he made to Radio Israel where he was asked whether peace negotiations could start after the Palestinian parliamentary elections due to be held on 25th January. He was quoted as saying, “This depends on the other side. But the Israelis have no intention to negotiate.” Al Zahar allegedly also said, “Let us wait and see. Everything will become clear after the elections.”
Qualifying his remarks to the Israeli station, al Zahar said the “discussion of negotiation came in my assessment of the experience of negotiating when I was asked whether Hamas was willing to enter into talks.” He added, “I warned the correspondent against misquoting me and claiming that I had said [Hamas] was ready to negotiate.”
The Israeli government had threatened to meddle in the January elections and prevent Hamas from taking part, despite internal and European opposition. Sharon’s aides have even warned Hamas candidates not to campaign as this will put their lives at risk.
Al Zahar’s latest statement elicited a range of reactions in Israel. Transport Minister Meir Sheetrit welcomed them while the Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom rejected the remarks and considered them tactical changes motivated by international pressure “the terrorist organization” was under.