Metin Mutanoglu and Ahmed Yusuf
DOHA, Qatar (AA): Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal said direct talks with Israel were “useless” in the current phase, stressing that the group’s new policy document — in which it voices readiness to accept a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders — would serve the ongoing Palestinian struggle for statehood.
Meshaal made the assertions in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency conducted this week in Qatari capital Doha.
The political chief of Hamas — which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007 — went on to say that the group’s recent policy changes reflected the “progressiveness” of the group’s thinking while also preserving its founding principles.
“Israel is disturbed by Hamas’s ability to address the world while maintaining its strength and principles in defense of Palestinian rights,” he said.
“Israel wants Hamas to be weak on the ground while appearing ‘extremist’ in the political arena,” he added. “If Hamas does the opposite and improves its political language… this disturbs Israel.”
Meshaal went on to assert that Israel was “constantly trying to distort the Palestinian position; to make us look like ‘extremists’ and ‘terrorists’.”
Meanwhile, he added, “Israel tries to disguise its policy of shedding [Palestinian] blood and stealing [Palestinian] land while rejecting any fair solution [to the conflict]”.
In this way, he said, the self-proclaimed Jewish state “continues to treat the world with contempt”.
According to Meshaal, Hamas’s recently-unveiled policy document will serve to “convey the position of Hamas and the Palestinian people to an international audience with a view to garnering global support for the Palestinian cause”.
Regarding the prospect of holding direct talks with Israel, Meshaal said: “Negotiating with your enemy is a legitimate principle. All groups and states have the right to negotiate with their enemies with a view to achieving their objectives.”
However, he added, groups and states also have the right to “choose the appropriate time for talks — bearing in mind the balance of power on the ground — with a view to forcing the enemy to recognize their rights”.
He added: “The history of our nation, and that of other nations, is full of examples of this principle.”
“The policy of Hamas at this time is not to negotiate directly with Israel,” he explained. “The enemy does not appear desirous of peace. Nor does it feel compelled to withdraw [from occupied territories] or recognize the rights of our people.”
Therefore, Meshaal said, “negotiations under these circumstances would be useless — even dangerous”.
He went on: “Israel uses the notion of negotiations as a public-relations tool to fool the world into believing that it wants peace. Israel uses lies and deception to continue stealing land, building settlements, Judaizing [Jerusalem] and altering realities on the ground.”
“Israel exploits the peace process to wear down the Palestinian and Arab positions and drown our negotiators in superfluous detail,” Meshaal said. “It begins each new round of talks based on [Palestinian] concessions made in the previous one — a practice we view as very treacherous.”
Meshaal described Hamas’s new policy document as “a reflection of the natural progression of the group’s thinking, performance and experience”.
“At the same time,” he added, “the document will serve to raise the profile of the Palestinian cause on the world stage.”
According to Meshaal, the policy document also serves to refute “unfair accusations made against the Palestinian resistance… in the face of unremitting Israeli propaganda and lies”.
He went on to urge world capitals to be more accepting of other Palestinian factions — including resistance groups — and abandon longstanding preconditions.
“In reality, these preconditions are being imposed by the Israeli occupation,” he said. “They have nothing to do with these countries’ national interests.”
Meshaal also called on the international community to deal “fairly and seriously” with the Palestinian national struggle and to “recognize that the root of the problem is the Israeli occupation”.
Meshaal concluded by voicing hope that other Islamic groups in region might benefit from Hamas’s experience.
“As we have learned from the experiences of other movements, we hope that Hamas might serve as a model for other Islamic groups,” he said.
“That being said,” he added, “we recognize the different circumstances and factors faced by these groups, which operate in different areas and environments.”
When asked what he planned to do upon the expiry of his tenure as Hamas political chief, Meshaal said he would continue playing a role — both in the group and in the wider struggle for Palestinian statehood.
“With Allah’s help, Hamas has provided a unique example of national resistance,” he told Anadolu Agency. “It has also been a pioneer in the principles of Shura [political consultation] and democracy, both in terms of its leadership and its institutions.”