Friday, November 25, 2011

Mashaal: Israel's threats on reconciliation 'don't scare us'

Demonstrators hold placards during a rally supporting the unification between
rival factions Fatah and Hamas, in Ramallah Nov. 24.
(Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Exiled Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal said Friday that Israeli threats after reconciliation talks with Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas "would not scare us but rather assure us that reconciliation is the right track for the Palestinian people."

Mashaal and Abbas met in Cairo on Thursday for the first time since signing the agreement to end the rivalry that split the West Bank and Gaza into separate administrations under each party.

Israel opposes the deal and warned that Abbas would have to chose between peace with Israel and reconciliation with Hamas.

"The threats (by the Israeli government) reassure us that we are taking the right track ... the Palestinian people can't be angered or frightened when they do anything that serves their interest,” Mashaal told reporters.

"Why would we be worried while the enemy practices tyranny against the Palestinian people indiscriminately on a daily basis?" he said.

The reconciliation deal, which set out a path to a unity government of technocrats and elections within a year, had stalled over continuing disagreement, in particular over the candidate to head the new cabinet. Abbas supported the current premier in Ramallah Salam Fayyad, who was rejected by Hamas.

On Friday, Mashaal said it was still too early to discuss Hamas' nomination of a prime minister, after the meeting with Abbas that both insisted ended remaining disagreements between them.

The Hamas politburo head said that the next meeting of factions in December would discuss reconstruction of the PLO, political issues and elections.

In an interview late Thursday, Mashaal told AFP that Hamas would focus its energies on popular resistance, while defending the movement's right to wage armed struggle against Israel.

"Every people has the right to fight against occupation in every way, with weapons or otherwise. But at the moment, we want to cooperate with the popular resistance.

"We believe in armed resistance but popular resistance is a program which is common to all the factions," Mashaal said.

Abbas and Mashaal on Thursday approved a two-page document reiterating their commitment to the main elements of the original deal, and hailed a new era of "partnership."

The document, a copy of which was seen by AFP, outlines agreement on "the adoption of popular resistance" which is to be to be strengthened to oppose the seizure of land for Jewish settlement building and construction of the West Bank barrier.

"This resistance will be increased and organized and there is to be an agreement on its style, on greater efficiency and the formation of a framework to direct it," the accord says.

Mashaal did not go into detail about the focus on popular resistance but said the Hamas leadership would ensure the agreement was translated into action.

"I asked them to take practical and positive measures to flesh out this agreement," he told AFP.

"I have instructed the Hamas leadership (in Gaza and Damascus) to adopt a political line and one with the press that doesn't upset the conciliatory spirit, and that truly reflects the atmosphere of reconciliation."

Mashaal added that the new reality gripping the Middle East left the rival national movements no choice but to work together.

"There is no other way but to get along with each other, being as we are in the middle of the Arab Spring with the winds of change sweeping the region," he said.

"The bitter experience with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and his extremist clique, the inability of the international community to give us justice, the manifestly pro-Israel bias of the US administration which is busy with the presidential election -- all this obliges us to work for reconciliation," he said.

"We want to agree on a real Palestinian strategy ... and work together in a spirit of partnership with Fatah and all the (political) factions."


Maan News Agency