On the eve of US-brokered Palestinian-Israeli peace talks which begin on Thursday, Sharmine Narwani went to Damascus to interview the Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Meshaal.
Sharmine Narwani: There is debate about whether Hamas accepts the premise of a two-state solution — your language seems often vague and heavily nuanced. I want to ask if you could clarify, but I am also curious as to whether it is even worth accepting a two-state solution today when there has been so much land confiscation and settlement activity by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem?
Khaled Meshaal: Hamas does accept a Palestinian state on the lines of 1967 — and does not accept the two-state solution.
SN: What is the difference between the two?
KM: There is big difference between these two. I am a Palestinian. I am a Palestinian leader. I am concerned with accomplishing what the Palestinian people are looking for — which is to get rid of the occupation, attain liberation and freedom, and establish the Palestinian state on the lines of 1967. Talking about Israel is not relevant to me — I am not concerned about it. It is an occupying state, and I am the victim. I am the victim of the occupation; I am not concerned with giving legitimacy to this occupying country. The international community can deal with this (Israeli) state; I am concerned with the Palestinian people. I am as a Palestinian concerned with establishing the Palestinian state only.
SN: Can you clarify further? As a Palestinian leader of the Resistance you have to give people an idea of what you aspire to — and how you expect to attain it?
KM: For us, the 20 years of experience with these peace negotiations — and the failure of it — very much convinces us today that the legitimate rights of Palestinians will be only be gained by snatching them, not by being gifted with them at the negotiating table. Neither Netanyahu nor any other Israeli leader will ever simply gift us a Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority has watered down all its demands and is merely asking for a frame of reference to the 1967 borders in negotiations, but Netanyahu has repeatedly refused to accept even this most basic premise for peace. Nor will America or the international community gift us with a state — we have to depend on ourselves and help ourselves.
As a Palestinian leader, I tell my people that the Palestinian state and Palestinian rights will not be accomplished through this peace process — but it will be accomplished by force, and it will be accomplished by resistance. I tell them that through this bitter experience of long negotiations with the Israelis, we got nothing — we could not even get the 1967 solution. I tell them the only option in front of us today is to take this by force and by resistance. And the Palestinian people today realize this — yes, it has a steep price, but there is no other option for the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people tried the peace process option but the result was nothing.