Ma'an News Agency
May 25, 2011 - 12:00am

In an interview with the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar set out the compromises the party was willing to make for a unity deal with Fatah, and made clear that unity would not change the party's platform.

"Reconciliation does not mean Hamas has changed its agenda," the leader was quoted as saying in the Tuesday report, adding that nor was Fatah bending its own goals to those of Hamas when it signed the document.

Unity would simply set out the framework for a functioning governance structure, Zahhar said, adding that the platforms of each party would be determined by Palestinians, and would be put to the test at the ballot box when elections are called.

In 2006, Zahhar said, "Fatah did not accept the outcome" of the elections, and cautioned against a similar reaction to the results of the vote expected to take place in 2012.

The paper asked if Hamas feared the coming popular vote, prompting the Hamas hardliner to answer:

"We wanted to protect elections from expected fraud. The parliamentary elections in 1996 were completely counterfeit and everybody knew it. Some elected candidates were brought down the next day and later on they were shot.

"We have a thousand pieces of evidence that show the presidential elections of 2005 should also be suspect, while local elections in the same year which Hamas won were righteous, though somehow Fatah managed to throw them out through judiciary committees.

"Thus, we want the [newly formed] Central Elections Committee to be able to have the final word, and there should be consensus over this committee."

The Gaza-based Hamas leader said that while the movement's leader in exile Khalid Mash’al had agreed to give the PA time to negotiate with Israel, he was "speaking on his own," in a decision that had more to do with the unity deal than with Hamas' political position.

Zahhar said the issue was being "seriously reviewed," hinting that Mash'al was out of touch with the priorities of Hamas supporters in the West Bank and Gaza.

Asked if he was hinting that Mash'al should return to Gaza, Zahhar said he made no such intimation, but offered that he believed all those who wished to return to the coastal enclave should do so, including Fatah supporters so long as they were not "involved in the crimes of 2007," he said, referring to the infighting that cemented the division between the factions and led to separate governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Unity deal came when it was time

While other Hamas officials have said clearly that changes in the region prompted the signing of the unity documents, prompting speculation that an unwelcome Syria was pushing Hamas out, Zahhar denied the allegations, saying it was ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who prevented the unity deal.

Zahhar said Mubarak's regime had refused to meet with Hamas leaders in the 14 months following Fatah's signing of the 2009 papers, despite Hamas insistence that changes would have to be made before they would agree.

"Abu Mazin [President Mahmoud Abbas] impeded reconciliation when he refused to build the central election committee and the higher security committee by consensus," Zahhar added.

"When the negotiations pool dried out and its content evaporated," Zahhar said of what he hinted was a farcical unity process, "they [Fatah and Egypt] accepted Hamas’ suggestions."

The amendments Hamas sought to make to the deal, Zahhar said, were to "fortify reconciliation through consensus rather than giving Abu Mazin an opportunity to jeopardize the process."

Officials from Hamas and Fatah are currently in Cairo, where delegates are cobbling together a transitional government of technocrats, setting out a government platform, creating a mutually-acceptable Central Elections Committee and a mandate for the preparation of a vote by March 2012. Progress has thus far been slow, but Fatah officials Tuesday said the process is being carried out with trust and care, and is on schedule.

The delegates are also set to form a plan for the reintegration of security service in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Zahhar said that for the mean time, "the status quo will continue," estimating that it would last for approximately one year.

Following the lag period, Zahhar said the technocrat government's minister of interior would coordinate between both sides, and help form a higher security committee.

"We will not allow the return of [the PA] preventive security and its notorious leaders, and I advise them in public to avoid coming to both Gaza and the West Bank. That is much better for them," Zahhar warned.

September move at UN 'misleading'

"The September entitlement [the PLO move to seek state recognition at the UN this year] is misleading; such terminology has been used before and it was a waste of time and effort," he said of the Arabic catchphrase Isthiqaq Ayloul (September entitlement) which underlines the stance that Palestinians will go to the UN seeking recognition of the state they are entitled to.

"Suppose all the UN member countries agreed on a Palestinian state, the result will be zero. In 1988, Yasser Arafat got 100 countries to recognize the state he announced. On which land will this state will be built?" he told the daily.

"He [Abbas] is talking about the 1967 borders with land swaps. This will eventually mean the Al-Aqsa Mosque will go, and who is ready to accept that? It is not about swapping land on 1:1 basis. No Muslim or Christian will agree to swap Jerusalem no matter how small it is area is," Zahhar added.


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