A Conversation with Ismail Haniyeh

'We Do Not Wish to Throw Them Into the Sea'

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Since Hamas won control of parliament in the recent Palestinian elections, policymakers in Washington and Jerusalem have been faced with a dilemma: how to deal with a democratically elected government that is also on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. Last week, Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth interviewed Hamas's new prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, by phone in his home in the refugee camp where he lives with his wife and 12 children in Gaza.

Were you surprised by the size of the Hamas victory?

Hamas entered the elections planning to be victorious.

Was the victory due to corruption in Fatah, the social services you provided or the general agreement of most Palestinians with the Hamas program of armed resistance?

The victory of Hamas is not only based on the corruption of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas has a vision and a program, and this is the reason why the Palestinian people chose Hamas. However, there is no doubt that the corruption helped Hamas's victory.

What percent of the people voted for Hamas because of your call for armed resistance?

Resistance is one of the reasons for Hamas's victory, but Hamas works [also] in the political, educational and charitable fields. All these activities helped it win.

Palestinian President Abu Mazen and the international community have put forward conditions for dealing with Hamas: 1) recognize Israel; 2) recognize existing agreements with Israel made by the Palestinian Liberation Organization; 3) renounce violence. Will you agree to these conditions?

We are surprised that such conditions are imposed on us. Why don't they direct such conditions and questions to Israel? Has Israel respected agreements? Israel has bypassed practically all agreements. We say: Let Israel recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians first and then we will have a position regarding this. Which Israel should we recognize? The Israel of 1917; the Israel of 1936; the Israel of 1948; the Israel of 1956; or the Israel of 1967? Which borders and which Israel? Israel has to recognize first the Palestinian state and its borders and then we will know what we are talking about.

Israel has agreed to a two-state solution, signed agreements with the PLO and withdrawn from Gaza. So will Hamas accept any of the agreements that the PLO -- starting with [Yasser] Arafat and continuing with Abu Mazen -- made with Israel?

Number one, the withdrawal from Gaza was based on a unilateral decision and a unilateral plan. It was not [done] out of the generosity of Israel. Has Israel committed itself to all these agreements? We are not war seekers nor are we war initiators.

We are not lovers of blood. We are not interested in a vicious cycle of violence. We are oppressed people with rights. If peace brings us our rights, then this is good.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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