Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Dr. Ahmad Yusuf, senior political adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah, has affirmed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with some Arab countries are presently capable of confronting the US and softening its position towards the Palestinian unity government. The aforementioned government is currently being formed based on the Mecca agreement between the Fatah and Hamas movements.
“Hamas could witness ideological changes in the coming period. An analysis of the political scene could lead to some changes in the movement’s ideas, especially since politics could achieve what we were seeking to accomplish through armed resistance. If we cannot achieve what we want, we could return to the resistance option, our cadres are still present,” Yusuf told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The senior advisor believed it was unlikely that the statements made by Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s the second ranking man, contained messages to al Qaeda sleeping cells in the Palestinian territories, furthermore ruling out the possibility of the existence of such cells.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Yusuf described al Zawahiri’s accusations that Hamas is “surrendering to the Jews” of being “an attempt to gain ground, win popularity and fame, and attract media attention at the expense of the Palestinian cause.” He said, “Hamas is a movement that has a strong Islamic background and a wide political consultation circle. It does not take any step without studies and consultations on both the political and religious levels.” He added, “We only act after examining our moves with our religious authority. This is why Hamas will not fall prey to any regional or international powers, and we will protect the constants of our cause.”
Yusuf praised “the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to achieve the Mecca agreement.” He affirmed that Hamas has taken big strides toward the formation of a unity government and that the delay in announcing it was due to the absence of the Palestinian president, in addition to his desire to postpone the announcement until after his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Furthermore, Yusuf explained there were matters that required further consultation, such as the interior minister.
Yusuf affirmed that after the formation of the national unity government, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will have a big role to play in softening the US position towards the new government. He stressed that Saudi Arabia and other states, such as Egypt and Jordan can help lift the blockade. Yusuf emphasized the need for “these states to exploit their strategic relations with Washington so that it can be convinced by the national unity government.”
Describing Olmert’s statement that the release of the detained soldier, Gilad Shalit was a precondition for recognizing the unity government as “a sort of political one-upmanship,” Yusuf said, “There are rules and conditions for exchanging prisoners, and I think that progress has been made on the Shalit issue.” Regarding Hamas’s position on the Arab initiative, Yusuf said, “The movement has announced that it would deal positively with this initiative provided Israel abides by it, and this has not happened. So, why should we concern ourselves with it?” He referred to some reservations about the initiative, such as the right to return and mutual recognition.
He said, “We accept the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for the release of the prisoners, recognition of the right of the refugees to return, and the acceptance of a renewable 10-year truce.”
Yusuf said, “The meeting in Mecca gave us the Arab legitimacy that we have been suffering without.” He added that, “It is now the Arab’s role to market the unity government. The next step we are seeking is to gain international legitimacy.”
He said, “Some people had wagered on the collapse of the Hamas government within three months, but this did not happen. The more our steadfastness increased, the more the confrontations intensified to weaken the government and the movement through disruptions, media campaigns, Israeli military operations, and American threats.” He added, “When all these things failed, they resorted to armed confrontations.”
Yusuf praised the Saudi initiative and said, “The initiative came at the right time. The significance of the kingdom resulted in responses from all the parties. The Saudis were concerned that the civil war could undermine the national project and the Palestinian existence.” He confirmed that the kingdom’s importance on the Arab, Islamic, and international levels was the reason behind all the parties welcoming the initiative to convene in Mecca.
Yusuf denied that Hamas was preparing to turn toward Iran if Saudi Arabia had not proposed its initiative for a meeting in Mecca. He said, “This is false because Hamas, throughout its history has maintained an equal distance from everyone. The movement turned down an Iranian financial aid offer because it did not want anyone to exert influence over it.” However, he hastily corrected himself, “With the blockade all the doors were shut, even the Arab and Muslim ones. Therefore, when Iran offered to help us it was natural for us to accept.”