You upgraded Egypt’s relationship with Hamas. [Former chief of intelligence] Omar Suleiman tried for years to negotiate a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, and you did it in months.
It all started with the new government that came after the revolution. The government — which is now two months old — made it very clear from the first day that we want to open a new page with all the countries in the world. As such, we contacted Hamas. We pressed that we would like to get unity between the Palestinian factions so that they would be ready to enter into negotiations with Israel. When Secretary [Hillary] Clinton was here, I told her we would like to see the resumption of — not the peace process, I don’t accept the word “peace process” — it is process and not peace. What we need is to obtain peace. . . . We want unity in the Palestinian house. It is in the interest of both groups, it is in the interest of Israel.
Don’t you think this deal makes any agreement with Israel impossible?
No. Who is going to negotiate with Israel? It is the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], not Hamas. They have accepted many things — that they will be a government of technocrats. Salam Fayyad might be the prime minister, there will be elections. Maybe the elections Hamas will lose, who knows. I don’t know why the U.S. government was lukewarm at first and then became hostile.
Hamas is on the U.S. terrorist list.
You want my answer? So was George Washington for the British. So was Nelson Mandela in South Africa. So were Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Begin was one of the biggest terrorists and was responsible for the bombing of the King David Hotel. Shamir was responsible for the assassination of Count Bernadotte. And they worked for peace after that. Allow someone who is fighting for a cause to see the light of day at the end of the tunnel and to enter into peace. That is the history of the world.
What will Egypt’s position be in September regarding the recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations? I interviewed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad recently, and he spoke of his desire to see a Palestinian state recognized this fall.
We support it [statehood] very much. We are pressing all our friends. We are pressing the Europeans. We hope they will all recognize Palestine.
The problem with Hamas is that they don’t accept Israel.
Let’s say you have a government — take any government, take Israel — there are leftists, rightists, Marxists, whatever they are. The main thing is that they [Hamas] accept there will be negotiations with Israel. We would like to see a recognition of the state of Palestine by the overwhelming majority of member states. We took the cue from what President Obama said last year, that he would like to see a state of Palestine by next September.