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Apr 25, 2008
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Hamas Leader Khaled Mash'al: Our Proposal for Tahdiah ("Calm") Is Tactical

#1750 | 08:11
Source: Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar)

Following is an interview with Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on April 25, 2008:

Khaled Mash'al: Our only real motive for seeking tahdiah ["calm"] and for our willingness to deal with the Egyptian efforts, which were generated in order to achieve a tahdiah, with full knowledge of the Americans, of Rice, and David Welch, and through the efforts Egypt has exerted vis-à-vis the Israeli side, is to put an end to the aggression against our people in Gaza and the West Bank, and to get the siege lifted and the border crossings opened. Let me tell you that without all this, all options will be available for us. When the [Egyptian] minister Omar Sleiman comes, he will meet with the other factions, in order to develop a general Palestinian position. Then he will move on to the Israeli occupation, and if they accept [the tahdiah], we are ready, but if the Israelis reject it, then it was not us who offered them this tahdiah to begin with, and the Israeli rejection will be vis-à-vis Egypt. Egypt bears the responsibility, and no one in the world will be able to blame us when we take two measures: We will defend our people and our land in the face of the Israeli aggression, and we [will carry out] the explosion in Gaza, of which we have warned. Yes, if the siege is not lifted, the Gaza Strip will explode in the face of all those besieging it.

Interviewer: Including the Egyptians?

Khaled Mash'al: No, we don't blame the Egyptian for this. We will explode in the face of everybody. By "explosion," I mean that the Palestinian people will choose its own options.


People should not assume that in the management of this conflict, we are moving from a phase of resistance and battles to a phase of calm. No. According to our concept of the management of this conflict, the tahdiah is a tactical means. It is a step within the resistance and is not detached from it. It is only natural for any resistance movement, which cares about the interests of its people, to bear in mind the general Palestinian condition. At times, it generates an escalation, and at times, it withdraws a little. It is a process of ebb and flow, going up and down. This is how you run a battle. Hamas is renowned for this. In 2003, we began a tahdiah, and later renewed the operations. The same thing happened following 2005. Hamas conducted resistance from within the government, as well as when it was not in the government. This is a method of conflict management.


My brother Muhammad, if a tahdiah is achieved – the Gaza Strip was, is, and will continue to be part of this homeland. People in Gaza would be able to recover, and the siege would be over. This would be an accomplishment.


They are worried that Hamas and the other resistance factions will use the tahdiah to grow stronger, both in terms of weapons and training, and that the people will recover and prepare for the next round of resistance, because we are talking about a tactical tahdiah, within the constraints I have mentioned. But the resistance, in principle, is not directed against the aggression only. In principle, the resistance is directed against the occupation. As long as there is occupation, there must be resistance.

Interviewer: Israel is not so naïve that it would give you what you want, just like that, so that you can recover, and prepare for the next round. What would make Israel do this, notwithstanding all the important things you just said.

Khaled Mash'al: Herein lies the important paradox, my brother Muhammad. At the negotiating table, since Israel holds all, or most, of the cards, Israel will not give us anything. It is not naïve, and will not give anything out of generosity. But in the face of resistance, in the battlefield, Israel will be forced to do so. Otherwise, what made Israel reach the April '96 understanding with Hizbullah? What made it leave South Lebanon? What made it leave Gaza? It did not withdraw as a result of any understandings. The balance of power on the ground forces Israel to do so.


Interviewer: Carter stated on your behalf – and later you clarified this – that you agree that if President Mahmoud Abbas reaches a settlement, a referendum would be held over it following a national reconciliation. You agree to accept the results of the referendum, even if they do not reflect your views. This was considered a sign of openness and moderation on the part of Hamas. However, shortly afterwards, Sami Abu Zuhri said: "We are not obliged to accept the results of this referendum." There were contradictory statements within Hamas. We would like a clarification. If Mahmoud Abbas reaches a settlement, which he himself accepts, and it is preceded by a national reconciliation, and a referendum is held over it among the Palestinian people – will you accept the results, yes or no?

Khaled Mash'al: Look, brother Muhammad, everything you said represents different angles of the same issue, and not different positions within Hamas. First of all, negotiations must be held on the basis of the Palestinian rights. Eventually presenting the results for ratification is not enough. From the very beginning, the Palestinian negotiator must adhere to the [2006] National Agreement Document, and must negotiate on the basis of the rights listed in it. Ignoring these rights is tantamount to violating the documents. This document is a complete package deal, and one cannot deal with only parts of it. Secondly, as you have said, this must take place following a reconciliation. Today, the negotiations are held in the shadow of division. Moreover, while all the doors are open for negotiations [with Israel], all the doors for [Palestinian] reconciliation are closed. You have seen what happened following the San'a Declaration. When the U.S. and Israel threatened the Palestinian president, the [Fatah] withdrew from what they had signed in San'a.


Thirdly, the referendum must include all our people, home and abroad – not just within [Palestine].

Interviewer: Or else there should be new election for the Palestinian National Council.

Khaled Mash'al: Yes. When all these terms are met, nobody in Hamas – or any Palestinian leader – will have any concern. We will have confidence in the choices of the Palestinian people.

Interviewer: Even if you disagree with them?

Khaled Mash'al: Yes. Brother Muhammad, I will accept the will of the Palestinian people, as reflected in free elections to the Palestinian National Council, according to terms on which we will agree, or in a free referendum, home and abroad. I respect and accept the rules of the democratic game.


Interviewer: You say: We are ready to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, within a certain settlement, but we will not recognize Israel. To tell you the truth, it is difficult to accept such a formula. Israel is not likely to give you – whether to Hamas or to the Palestinian leadership, since this is the situation right now – a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem at its capital, and allow the return of the refugees, while you say to Israel: Bye bye, I won't recognize you. Why should Israel do this? After all, it is not a charity association. Why should Israel give you all this, and I say "give you," because this is the situation right now...

Khaled Mash'al: This is a logical question in these difficult times, when things are confused. Brother Muhammad, all the formulas are difficult. The formula of recognizing Israel in advance, which was adopted by some Palestinians and Arabs – what results did it yield? Some people recognized Israel, and discussed normalization of relations, coexistence, and so on. What was the result when we turned to this formula, which seems easier? Did it unravel the secrets of the conflict? Did it drive Israel to respect the Palestinian and Arab will? Did Israel give Yasser Arafat a state, or did it kill him? They killed Yasser Arafat just because he maneuvered between the negotiations game and the game of the Intifada and resistance. Now, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas is proceeding along a single highway – negotiations. He recognized Israel and everything, but what was the result? Nothing.

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