London, Asharq Al-Awsat –Senior Hamas figure Khalil al-Hayya informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the Hamas movement is committed to the Doha Declaration, although he acknowledged that there are some “legal” issues that must be dealt with before this can be implemented. Al-Hayya, who is a member of the Hamas Political Bureau for the Gaza Strip spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about the Doha Declaration in the wake of inflammatory comments issued by another senior Hamas figure, Mahmoud al-Zahar. Al-Zahar, speaking to official Egyptian media, described the Doha Declaration as a “mistake”, saying that this needed to be revised. Al-Hayya attempted to play down al-Zahar’s comments, stressing that the Hamas movement is committed to the reconciliation agreement.
Khalil al-Hayya is a senior Hamas Political Bureau member and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you agree that the statements made by Mahmoud al-Zahar to the official Egyptian Middle East News Agency were akin to a declaration of rebellion against Khalid Mishal’s decision to sign the Doha Declaration?
[Al-Hayya] This is an inaccurate description of the reality within the Hamas movement and the actions of its leadership. As for the agreement, this was signed by Hamas Political Bureau chief Khalid Mishal and Hamas is committed to this. The statements issued by certain Hamas movement members…were primarily on the legal nature of this agreement, particularly the issue of Mahmoud Abbas being both Palestinian Authority [PA] president and [Palestinian] prime minister, for this contravenes the law. The statements issued by all the Hamas representatives in this regard, including Mahmoud al-Zahar, are that this is not in line with the law.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Perhaps this applies to the statements issued by the Hamas bloc of the Palestinian Legislative Council, however al-Zahar said that Mishal had signed the Doha Declaration without consulting with the Hamas movement leadership, who are in the process of studying this decision and will issue their opinion in the coming days. How do you explain this?
[Al-Hayya] Let me clarify this…in the end we are saying that this [Abbas being both president of the PA and prime minister of the government] is against the law…so before we implement this agreement we are calling on our brothers in the Fatah movement to find a legal solution to this. The most important thing is that we achieve reconciliation [with Fatah]; statements issued by Mahmoud al-Zahar or anybody else do not mean that there is division or opposition within the Hamas movement. On the contrary, the Hamas movement respects itself and its commitments. We want to achieve reconciliation. We do not need anybody saying that there are divisions within the Hamas movement, or between the different Palestinian factions [on the Doha Declaration].
[Asharq Al-Awsat] This appears to be the Hamas modus operandi, to deny the presence of any splits or divisions to the media. Would you agree?
[Al-Hayya] Has any Hamas member said that the movement is withdrawing from the agreement signed by Khalid Mishal?
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Mahmoud al-Zahar’s statements are clear, he described the agreement as a mistake and said that Hamas is studying this decision…in other words that Hamas has not yet agreed to this.
[Al-Hayya] This agreement has been signed by the president of the Hamas Political Bureau…and Hamas is not known for evading its agreements. It is the apparatus within the Hamas movement that is primarily authorized to agree or reject this agreement, and until now the Hamas apparatus has not rejected this agreement, nor has any official statement been issued in this regard.
Yes, some statements have been issued that describe the state of this agreement and its political and legal effects…however the important thing is that Hamas has not come out to say that we withdraw from this agreement; neither Mahmoud al-Zahar said this, nor did Khalid Mishal, nor any other senior Hamas figure. Therefore it would be fair to say that Hamas has not issued any media or political statement saying that it is withdrawing from this agreement; the most important thing is that we want to achieve reconciliation and we are depending on the [inter-Palestinian reconciliation] agreement that was sponsored by Egypt with regards to all reconciliation issues, therefore any other agreement must be consistent with this original agreement. We must apply a single reconciliation package that is consistent with the law. The law is set up to serve the people, not to hold them captive…and we can adapt the law to the people’s benefit. Allow me to reiterate that Hamas is not known for withdrawing from its commitments, and the official apparatus within Hamas are the ones who are authorized to say yes or no…whether to withdraw from this agreement or not…and Hamas and its apparatus have not issued anything opposing this agreement, therefore Hamas is committed to this.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there any credence to the reports about communication taking place between Hamas and Fatah to overcome the legal problem contained within this agreement, and that constitutional amendments may be made?
[Al-Hayya] Let me say that there are no direct communication between Hamas and Fatah in this regard, because the subject of the agreement itself has not been applied. This is supported to be implemented via…the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], between Mishal and Abbas. Therefore implementing this requires meetings to work out details to implement this. The reconciliation issues do not only involve the government, although this is one of the most important reconciliation files…and therefore we must work on all reconciliation issues as one package, not selectively.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think this government will be formed following the meeting of the PLO Executive Committee in Cairo, which is scheduled to take place on 23 February?
[Al-Hayya] I expect this will be one of the most important issues that will be discussed by the leadership…because this government is supposed to be a national consensus government made up of all national parties and representing the entire Palestinian people.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about Khalid Mishal? Does he intend to stand as Hamas Political Bureau chief for another term? Is there a consensus within the Hamas movement on this issue?
[Al-Hayya] This is something that highlights the image of the Hamas movement. Firstly, its leaders are all martyrs, and the leaders who are present are not committed to positions, but are reluctant to assume such positions. Khalid Mishal has expressed his desire not to stand for the presidency of the Hamas political bureau in the future…but there are many voices in the movement, in Gaza and elsewhere, calling on Mishal to remain in this position. The statement issued by Ismail Haniyeh in Doha confirms this; as he said that we are committed to Mishal, and calls on him to reverse this position. This issue will be decided by two things; firstly Mishal’s own desires, and secondly the desires of a large part of the Hamas movement that he stays in this position.