There can be no solution without unconditional talks, said chief of the Hamas politburo Khalid Mesha'al.
In an exclusive interview in Qatar last week, Mesha'al told Gulf News that the current deadlock between the two Palestinian factions harmed the people's struggle against Israeli occupation.
The following is the text of the interview with Mesha'al.
Gulf News: Can you describe the situation in Gaza, and explain how people there are coping with the lack of resources since Hamas took charge of the strip in June this year.
Khalid Mesha'al: Living conditions in Gaza have been deteriorating badly since mid-June this year. Some 29 patients died as a result of the siege imposed by the Israelis on the strip, including a four-month old infant.
They were banned from travelling abroad to get the treatment they urgently needed because hospitals in Gaza were not equipped to treat them.
The number of deaths might increase sharply in the coming weeks with around 1,500 patients needing urgent treatment abroad, some of whom were already on treatment programmes in Israeli hospitals.
Furthermore, there are 23 dialysis machines that cannot function anymore in the strip, leaving patients dependent on them on the verge of death.
On the economic front, the agricultural sector lost $35 million (Dh128m) as a result of the Israeli siege over the past six months and the textile sector lost $52 million during the same period.
We have 140,000 workers, who were forced to join thousands of jobless citizens because of the lack of raw materials imported from abroad and the ban on work in Israel.
What makes the situation even worse is the fact that 16,000 government employees in Gaza that were not paid salaries for months after the appointed government in Ramallah stopped paying the salaries of the employees in the strip.
Who is responsible for what has happened in Gaza. Do you accept responsibility?
I can't blame Hamas neither can I blame Fatah unless the case was investigated by independent investigators.
Hamas leaders in Gaza say they were forced to take over security institutions in Gaza as the leaders of these institutions from Fatah were preparing to attack Hamas.
I called for an Arab investigation team and was ready to accept the verdict of such an independent team, but President [Mahmoud] Abbas did not agree and the proposal for the investigation, which was approved by the Arab League, was aborted before it began.
Six months after the coup in Gaza, do you see Hamas as having won or lost as a result of its move?
Hamas and Fatah are among other components of the Palestinian people. They and all Palestinians have lost from the current situation. The situation has become more serious with the talks about reviving the peace plan with Israel, because this means that no Palestinian party is capable of endorsing the agreements.
In my opinion neither Israel nor the US are sincere in their move for peace, but on the other hand, no one from the Palestinian side is capable of signing a lasting peace agreement with Israel.
Discussing peace was possible with the National Unity government formed after the Makkah Agreement this year, but it is not possible now since around 60 per cent of Palestinians are excluded from the peace talks.
Every Palestinian lost as a result of the current situation in Gaza. We need to come out from the crisis and the talks between the two factions are the only way to achieve a workable solution.
What is the solution to the tussle between you and Fatah?
We offered Fatah an unconditional talks proposal right after the crisis and the offer is still valid. We said that the situation in Gaza that resulted from the June conflict is not a bargaining chip.
We are ready to restore the national unity government and hand over the presidential premises to President Abbas immediately. We need to talk about security institutions in Gaza and in the West Bank.
Security institutions were used by some Fatah elements as private entities to serve their personal interests. It is unfair. President Abbas should have no objection to this demand from Hamas because it is in the interest of every Palestinian regardless of which government is in power.
The EU should have no objection to this demand because it means less corruption and better use of donation money.
Only Israel and subsequently the US could veto against the reform of security authorities in Gaza and the West Bank because they were using puppets in these authorities to serve the interests of Israel.
There are talks about a proposal floated by some Arab countries to resolve the conflict between Hamas and Fatah? How credible is such talk? Do you see Arab governments in a position to help the two Palestinian factions to reach a kind of compromise?
I don't know about a consolidated Arab effort to resolve the situation in Gaza. There are some efforts by a number of Arab countries to explore ways of bringing together both Hamas and Fatah.
The efforts were frozen because the region was busy with the preparations for the Annapolis Peace Conference held in the US last month. The failure of Annapolis might help in reviving Arab reconciliation efforts.
I think Arab governments are capable of helping Palestinians to patch up their differences provided they do not bow to US pressure.
The US has been exerting tremendous pressure on the EU, Arab countries and on the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to move on without Hamas. Americans think the exclusion of Hamas is better for their plans in the region.
They do not understand yet that Hamas legitimacy stems from the support of the people who will not accept anything less than Palestinian rights.
Prior to Annapolis, you said the US-sponsored Middle East Peace conference was meant to distract the region as Washington was preparing for an attack against Iran. What is your assessment of the outcome of the meetings in Annapolis, taking into consideration the concrete steps approved by the conference to support the birth of a Palestinian state?
We are living through the Annapolis aftermath. Israel resumed the killing in Gaza and the building of colonies in the West Bank is on. During Annapolis, Israel was talking war instead of reviving hopes of peace.
So, who could say that Annapolis was successful? It was not about peace and the US knows that it is not going to achieve peace in the Middle East. I still believe that the efforts in Annapolis were just a cover-up for a strike on Iran, Syria or on Lebanon or on all three of them.
This doesn't mean that I am pessimistic about the situation in the region because Arab people, who have right on their side, are not willing to surrender to American or Israeli pressure. They are determined to get back their rights regardless of the sacrifices needed to achieve their goal.
It is clear the US is trying to reach political solutions with Syria, where the political bureau of Hamas is based, and with Iran, who is your strongest ally. How do you see the future of Hamas if both countries become incapable of offering the same level of support currently enjoyed by Hamas?
Syria and Iran support Hamas but this doesn't mean that the existence of the organisation depends on the support of its friends. We simply exist because we are the true representatives of millions of Palestinians in the territories and abroad and we are not going to disappoint our supporters.
We hope the US sees sense and talk to both Syria and Iran. We will be happy to see peace prevailing in the region. But this does not mean that the political statements that appear on the surface reflect the reality of the US plans for the region.
The reality is that the US has learnt little from the lessons of Iraq and is leading the world for another deadly endeavour in the Middle East.
President Abbas has been talking about a new electoral law banning Hamas from taking part in the coming elections. Such a law - if passed - will ban Hamas from playing a political role in the PNA. How do you see the impact of such a move on Hamas?
With due respect to President Abbas, democracy is not a tailor-made item that the President can solely design. It is a project agreed upon by all players and has to be enforced sincerely.
Hamas was not the one who invented the electoral system in Palestine. After the 2006 election and the victory of Hamas, Israel, the US and the EU refused the result of people.
In my opinion, Abbas cannot change the game because the results did not suit Fatah or Israel or even the US.
Are you sure that Palestinians will vote for Hamas again?
No party or movement in the world can be sure about the political favours of its people all the time. Hamas said in the past and I stress here again that Hamas is ready to accept early elections, but this has to come through the elected parliament and after an agreement on the step by all parties.
How do you see the future of the Palestinians' cause? Israel is threatening to invade Gaza. What do you think could happen if Israel decided to do so?
I am quite optimistic about the future of Palestinians although the current situation is in favour of our enemy. Israel could invade Gaza, but what it can do with it afterwards? Gaza remained under the Israeli occupation for 36 years, but finally it was defeated there.
They can try their luck once again. I know that occupation was not easy on my people, but was not easy on Israelis too. Israel has its calculations and we have ours as well.
Do you see the US capable of imposing peace on both Palestinians and Israel?
Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Aralık 2007, 11:20
No power on earth could enforce peace other than the US, but unfortunately it is not willing to play such a constructive role.
If Israel says no to refugees, no to the dismantling of the colonies, ... and no to occupied Jerusalem as a capital of Palestine, who could, other than the US, force Israelis to accept ... international resolution."