London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, rejected any connection between the launch of direct negotiations in Washington DC, and a terrorist attack on Route 60, which links the ‘Kiryat Arba’ settlement to the city of Hebron in the southern West Bank, on Tuesday evening, which left four Israeli settlers dead.
Al-Zahar, speaking by telephone to Asharq al-Awsat said: “our policy has always been to let the negotiations continue, and we have not devoted one day of our work to stopping them”. Al-Zahar added: “There is a portion of the Palestinian people [Fatah and its supporters], who are in favor of negotiations in order to impose their political program, and we are convinced that this political program will not bring what is needed. The question then is: why take responsibility for undermining something that has already failed? In relation to our program of resistance, as you can see the West Bank has buckled under overwhelming pressure. Therefore, our program’s activities relate to the level of pressure imposed on the Palestinian people in the West Bank”.
In response to a question about whether he meant what he said, that the synchronization of the terrorist attack with the launch of the negotiations was just a coincidence, he said: “Coincidence or no coincidence, it was the decision made by people in the field [Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas]. Some say [the timing of the attacks] was intentional, that is not true. When people are presented with opportunities, as well as the means and targets, they act”. He went on to say that: “any attempt to try and belittle these actions, and link them to the negotiations, is not true at all”.
Al-Zahar believes that the vision of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas regarding the negotiations is: “like our vision. The issues [that will be raised] and their results are already known. Jerusalem: Israelis are united on the issue of Jerusalem and the Palestinian negotiator will not get anything from them. Secondly: refugees, can convince the discarded refugees in Jordan, Syria or Lebanon [to accept what is being proposed]? As for the [issue of] water, there is no indication that Israel will give up the groundwater located in the West Bank”.
In response to a question regarding the reasons which prompted Mahmoud Abbas to go to Washington to negotiate, if his vision was the same as that of Hamas, al-Zahar claims that “if there is a call from Washington, he must go”. He added that “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] will not do what Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat at Camp David] did, in that he will not give up on the principles and the issue will be over”.
In response to accusations from authorities relating to Hamas trying to provoke violence in the West Bank, whilst preventing any operations initiated from Gaza, so as to maintain peace in the Strip, al-Zahar said: “We want a peaceful Gaza because in reality we liberated it. At this time we are not talking about the liberation of all Palestine, but the project to liberate the West Bank and Gaza. Now Gaza has been liberated after we removed them [the Israelis], and the liberation of the West Bank is now required, If they [the Palestinian Authority] succeed in doing so, we will give them credit”. He added “Now Gaza is free from Israeli occupation; the question is how was Gaza liberated? Was it [through] negotiations? Of course not, we informed the Israelis that their presence would be costly, and they decided to leave. Now, who is preventing resistance in the West Bank? They are [the authorities] collaborating with Israel on security issues. The choice is theirs, either carry the responsibility of preventing the resistance, in front of their own people and the outside world, or get rid of them [the Israelis]”. He continued to say “The problem is the lack of resistance my friend, not amongst the people of Gaza and the West Bank, but the existence of a sentiment inside you that neutralizes you. See how many Hamas members were arrested today [yesterday] after the operation, 200 people in the first few hours. This is the current image we are portraying”.
When asked if he thought that the current negotiations will lead to nothing and that resistance is the only option, he said: “these negotiations may lead to something, but will they reach even the minimum Palestinian demands, and be able to convince Palestinians on the streets, regarding issues such as Jerusalem, water, refugees, the Jordan Valley, settlements and the wall?”