Al-Jazeera satellite TV carried live on 15 October a 50-minute episode of its weekly programme ‘Open Dialogue,’ hosted by Ghassan Bin-Jiddu.
He interviewed Khalid Mish’al, head of the Hamas Political Bureau, and an audience of about 20 participants, some of whom asked questions later in the programme.
‘When we discuss the Palestinian and Arab situation, we see the following: There is a difficult Palestinian situation. There are pains, wounds, and exhaustion.
‘The Palestinians waged a tough five-year battle and continue to do so. There is also a disunited, weak, and shaky Arab situation that is preoccupied with local concerns imposed on the Arabs.
‘There is also an absence of international balance. If you take all these facts into consideration, you will find that the situation is difficult and the margin of movement the resistance has is not an easy one.’
He added: ‘It is well known to all observers of political developments that after his departure from Gaza, Sharon had nothing to give the PNA or Abu-Mazen as proven by the failure of plans to arrange for a meeting between the two.
‘Sharon was planning for this moment. He was planning to withdraw from Gaza and then give nothing. Some PNA officials even said international parties like the Americans and others offered them a Palestinian state in Gaza, but they rejected it.
‘This means what is possible to be given by the Israelis and perhaps the Americans is only Gaza and parts of the West Bank.’
Continuing, he said: ‘Sharon pulled out Gaza leaving behind unresolved issues. The crossing issue is still unresolved. Israel withdrew from Rafah, so why should there be controversy over the crossing? There is also controversy over the port, the airport, and airspace. If such minor issues are not resolved, how can major ones be resolved?’
On whether a peaceful settlement with Israel is possible, Mish’al says ‘there is no horizon for a settlement’ and added that Palestinian-Israeli meetings will continue to be held but they will achieve no results.
He added: ‘We have two options. The first is to accept what is offered by Israel and the United States through Palestinian begging and surrender.
‘What is offered is Gaza and parts of the West Bank. Even we might get these only with great difficulty through the known Israeli negotiations.
‘The second is to follow the path of wresting our rights step by step as we did in Gaza. I do not say we will defeat Israel or can decisively settle the battle today. I believe that this option is available.
‘It is the option of following the path of struggle and resistance by the Palestinians and the nation behind them, depending on their unity and joint efforts in order to impose their agenda on the other side and lead a long-drawn-out battle.’
Responding to another question, Mish’al said: ‘The US plan in the region is also shaky.
‘It failed in Afghanistan and Iraq. It failed even in administering internal affairs like the Katrina hurricane. The US plan is shaky although the United States is dealing with the world single-handedly. Opinion polls now show that Bush is supported by only 38 per cent of the people.’
He adds: ‘Hamas, together with the other resistance forces and all those who adopt the option of resistance, believe in the need to achieve the following aims during the next stage: First, rebuilding Gaza and providing a dignified life for the Palestinian people while continuing the liberation of Gaza to gain full control of its airspace, water, and crossings.’
He added: ‘Second, preparing for the next stage in managing the war with the enemy. Sharon left Gaza and that was all he wanted to give. That was the last withdrawal for him. Shall we surrender to this?
‘We want to pursue the battle. As for the way we are going to manage the war, this is a Palestinian affair on which we can reach agreement. We can run the battle in the West Bank or elsewhere, using all options and priorities.
‘Our option is resistance. We will run the battle of the wall, Jerusalem, settlements, and right to return until we obtain our rights.’ He then said: ‘The third priority is putting our Palestinian house in order. We need to complete this effort and cleanse our society of corruption, hegemony, lawlessness, and chaos.
‘We need to build a society based on dialogue, national unity, and democracy. We need to agree on terms of reference for the Palestinian political decision that deals with the Palestinians in and outside the homeland through the Legislative Council and elections.
‘We also need a general national term of reference represented by rebuilding the PLO. All these are priorities. Because our journey is long, neither Fatah nor Hamas can act alone. There must be partnership.’
Continuing, he says: ‘Our last priority is coming to terms with our Arab and Islamic nation so that the Arabs and Muslims will continue to support our national Palestinian agenda and be aware of what is taking place in the Palestinian territories.
‘They should not rush to normalise relations with Israel and thus reward Sharon as if he had done something good for the Palestinian people.’
Asked if the truce currently observed by Hamas is temporary, Mish’al says: ‘Resistance is a strategic option and the resistance weapon is a basic and only way to restore Palestinian rights. As for the role Gaza can play in the resistance plan, there is no doubt that Gaza today is not Gaza yesterday.
‘Therefore, an inter-Palestinian agreement must be reached on its role. We do not say we must maintain the old role played by Gaza . Also we do not say Gaza has pulled out of the battle as if it is not part of the Palestinian territories.’
Mishal continued: ‘As you know, Sharon said he will not allow Hamas to participate in the elections. Condoleezza Rice said Hamas must choose between violence, meaning resistance, and politics. Silvan Shalom said the same. Even Peres went to London to incite the Europeans against Hamas.
‘He called on them to cut off their ties and dialogue with Hamas. The Israeli leadership also threatened not to allow aid to the PNA if the latter allows Hamas to participate in the elections.’
Asked about the way Hamas will confront the ‘Israeli campaign,’ Mish’al says: ‘The Palestinians will not wage a battle without planning. Hamas is part of the Palestinian people. Regrettably, this campaign comes with a green light from the US Administration and world silence.’ He added Hamas can confront the ‘campaign’ through ‘resistance against occupation and this is a strategic option’ and through politics by ‘putting the Palestinian house in order and participating in the municipal and legislative elections and Palestinian decision-making.’
Responding to the question asked by one of the audience on municipal elections, Mish’al says: ‘The battle of elections is an honourable competition among the Palestinian forces. Hamas is in the lead at one time and Fatah at another. This is normal. We respect the ballot boxes. We believe in the democratic experience and respect its results. We must take into consideration the fact that the recent municipal elections took place after all the arrests I mentioned. Israel deliberately arrested those planning to run for the elections.’
He concluded: ‘The United States is not a destiny that we cannot escape. It cannot decide our present and future. We as resistance forces, along with all resistance forces in the nation, including Syria and Iran, can decide our future by ourselves.’