The leader of the Palestinian movement Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, sacked as Prime Minister by President Mahmoud Abbas, has launched an appeal for a long-term ceasefire with Israel. In an exclusive interview with EuroNews:, he also urged Europe to play an active role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
EuroNews: Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, says that they are ready to talk if Hamas accepts the Quartet conditions, and the Israeli right to exist.
Haniyeh: They had said the same thing to the PLO. Nothing was done for fifteen years, and the Palestinian aspirations have never been realised.
EuroNews: Let’s suppose Olmert is sincere this time.
Haniyeh:: Hopes and politics are not the same thing.
EuroNews: If Israel offers a hand to Hamas and asks Hamas to give up violence, can Hamas recognise Israel?
Haniyeh: The Israeli position is arrogant. They are always imposing conditions, and the conditions are unfair.
EuroNews: Is there any possibility of recognising Israel?
Haniyeh: First of all, let Israel recognise Hamas.
EuroNews: But there is a dilemma.
Haniyeh: Israel is an occupying country – occupying land and the Palestinian people. The normal thing would be for Israel to recognise Palestinian rights, so we can create our country.
EuroNews: Can you imagine a day when Hamas will extend a hand to Israel?
Haniyeh: Hamas has always said that we are ready for a long-lasting ceasefire – maybe ten years, maybe twenty – if we can have a state based on the borders of 1967.
EuroNews: And if there is a ceasefire, will there be negotiations?
Haniyeh: If Israel accepts the establishment of a Palestinian state, and if they have the will for a ceasefire, then surely we will look for ways and means to make it possible.
EuroNews: Without any pre-conditions, as the Israelis say?
Haniyeh: We will not repeat the experience of previous negotiations. In the past, Arab-Israeli talks did not bear fruit. We should learn from that, and we should not repeat errors.
EuroNews: It is said that there are secret contacts between Israel and the Hamas movement. Is that true?
Haniyeh: I do not have any information about secret contacts between the movement and Israel.
EuroNews: Let’s talk about peace. Who is throwing the chance of peace away?
Haniyeh: The Israelis.
EuroNews: But is there anyone on the Palestinian side who is letting the chance of peace slip-by?
Haniyeh: Absolutely not. The Palestinians are under occupation, and are looking for their freedom.
EuroNews: Are you making any approaches to Washington?
Haniyeh: We want to, but Washington should reciprocate.
EuroNews: If Washington were to approach you, would you invite the Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to Gaza?
Haniyeh: Gaza welcomes whoever wants to visit. That would depend on an American decision. Until now, it’s been clear that the American administration unfortunately doesn’t respect the results of our democratic elections, and the desires of the Palestinian people.
EuroNews: There’s a lot of talk about the isolation of Hamas. Who is isolated? The Hamas movement, or the Palestinian Authority?
Haniyeh: The Hamas movement will never be isolated. It is a movement which has its roots in Palestinian reality, and in the consciences of Arabic and Islamic people. All talk about isolating Hamas is a flight-of-fancy.
EuroNews: Is there any hope of seeing the Israeli soldier Gilaad Shalit freed through your mediation, as you did for Alan Johnston?
Haniyeh: Gilaad Shalit’s case is in the hands of the Egyptian authorities, and they are continuing talks with Israel about this. We want, as Palestinians, an honourable deal to end the suffering of our people detained in Israeli prisons, and at the same time end the suffering of Gilaad Shalit himself.
EuroNews: Let’s talk about the claims against you. One of them is that you did not fight corruption, but you created more problems than there were before Hamas came to power.
Haniyeh: That is not true. I say to all those who make those accusations, give me the proof that you are right. Today, we started opening corruption cases that we couldn’t deal with in the past because of opposition from warlords, security services, and some centres of power within Palestinian society.
EuroNews: In Ramallah, they are also accusing you of opening Gaza’s doors to some elements of al-Qaeda.
Haniyeh: All of these are allegations which are insignificant, and are not worthy of an answer.
EuroNews: Massimo d’Alema has said that channels of dialogue with Hamas should be opened as a matter of necessity – what’s your reaction?
Haniyeh: This is a very rational voice. It is considering the balance of power in the region, and in the Palestinian field, and all wise men would say nothing could be changed without associating with the islamic resistance movement of Hamas.
EuroNews: The fears are, that if Hamas is isolated, and there is no dialogue, the movement might be pushed into the arms of al-Qaeda. Are those fears realistic?
Haniyeh: Hamas will never throw itself into the arms of anyone, only the arms of Palestinian people, and the nation. But young people in general, in Palestinian lands, or the Arabic and Islamic world, will be drawn to extremism and the use of violence if they are pushed away from moderate Islamic values. You will find those aspects of extremism and violence used to resolve crisis situations.
EuroNews: Does Europe still have a place in mediation?
Haniyeh: Absolutely. I am surprised that the great continent of Europe – with whom we have common interests, culture and geographic proximity – is trapped by a limited view and limited actions, and is influenced by the American position. Europe has many cards to play, and has historic and strategic relations with peoples and states of the region. It should use that advantage to activate its role concerning an end to the conflict in the area. Unfortunately, Europe doesn’t see things as they really are. Probably it’s because it views the situation with only one eye. Probably it only listens to one side of the argument. But even if it did listen to both sides, Europe tunes its responses within limits, which it must break.