Hamas: Palestinian unity, not peace with Israel, is goal

Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar speaks to supporters in Gaza. (Flash 90)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Hamas “foreign minister” Mahmoud al-Zahar said Monday that the terrorist organization will not give up the armed struggle against Israel under any circumstances, and said attempts to renew peace talks are doomed by the rising tide of Islamism.

Speaking to Reuters in his Gaza office, Zahar said the rise of Islamism in the Arab world will strengthen Hamas and not the Palestinian Authority, whose President Mahmoud Abbas is engaged on futile talks with Israel. Abbas should better work at reconciling his Fatah movement with Hamas, he said.

“The changing factors around us are in our favor,” Zahar insisted. “They are not in favor either of Fatah’s project or those with whom it cooperates, including the Israeli enemy.”

Zahar was confident of Hamas’s growing strength, ever since ousting Fatah by force and taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007. “It all depends on Fatah’s policy now,” he said. “If Fatah wants the [unity] agreement to be accomplished, we will be ready. If they do not want, then we are sitting here and the future is ours.”

Zahar was adamant that Hamas would not give up its fight against Israel. He denied reports that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, based in Damascus, had accepted Abbas’s concept of non-violent “popular resistance” against Israel.

“Popular resistance includes both the Fatah agenda, which speaks of protests only, and the Hamas position, which advocates gathering all means of military armament for the sake of self-defense,” Zahar said.

“What is coming in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Libya, and currently in Sudan is supportive of the Palestinian cause, not as in the past a strategic supporter of the Israeli occupation,” he said.

“What is coming is a thousand times better than in the past. Therefore we have to invest in these achievements by the Arab street for the sake of achieving the fundamental goals of the Palestinian people, the liberation of land, and the return of [refugees],” Zahar said.

Zahar is a senior negotiator in the on-again, off-again process of reconciliation with Fatah, which has made little progress—even with the help of Egyptian mediation—since a preliminary agreement was signed in Cairo last year. The reconciliation, sealed personally by Abbas and Meshal last month in Cairo, will be jeopardized if Abbas pursues peace with Israel, Zahar warned.

“Imagine that the Israeli enemy attacked us today or tomorrow … If we were attacked we would respond by all possible means,” Zahar said. “They cannot accept that Gaza remains a painful and dangerous thorn in the future of the Israeli entity.”

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also came out Monday against the PA’s talks with Israel. The PA, senior PFLP official Kayid al-Ghous said, should focus on reconciliation among Palestinian factions instead of engaging in talks with Israel.

Meeting with Israel “poisons the atmosphere for reconciliation efforts,” Palestinian news agency Ma’an quoted the PFLP leader as saying.