Al-Monitor: Dr. Ghazi Hamad, deputy foreign minister in the Hamas government, is thought to be one of the people spearheading the movement’s pragmatic wing. Two years ago, the secret channel of communication he maintained with Dr. Gershon Baskin led to a breakthrough in the protracted negotiations over the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, in exchange for the release of over 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. There can be no doubt that the results of these negotiations earned Hamad a position of honor within the Hamas movement and, more broadly, among the Palestinian public.
Hamad is considered to be very close to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, whom he once served as spokesman, and to the chief of Hamas’ political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, the movement’s newly reelected leader.
In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Hamad analyzes the next steps that his movement will take, now that Khaled Meshaal has been reelected to head its reconstituted political bureau, and following the change within the movement’s bureau .
Al Monitor: Does Meshaal’s election signify a change in Hamas’ attitudes?
Hamad: First of all, we must remember that these were democratic elections, and as such, they are a credit to the movement. Elections for Hamas’ other institutions ended a year ago, and that was the last time that the Hamas movement expressed confidence in its leaders and their proposal to institute changes to Hamas’ policy. This included reconciliation with Fatah, among other things.
Al Monitor: When you talk about new policy, do you mean an end to the armed struggle and a transition to what Meshaal calls a “popular uprising”?
Hamad: As leader of the movement, Khaled Meshaal agreed to shift to a popular uprising. All of that began during the reconciliation talks. It emerged from a comprehensive vision of the movement’s future and the type of leadership that the Palestinian people need. And yet, though Meshaal is prepared to make a tactical shift to a popular uprising, armed struggle remains a legitimate right as long as the Occupation continues. At the same time, there is an extensive political and diplomatic program which we must advocate and work toward, and that includes joining the official institutions of the PLO. Those are our objectives, and that is our new approach.
Al Monitor: Does that include agreement to go back to the 1967 borders?
Hamad: Hamas has stated that it is prepared to accept a state within the 1967 borders.
Al Monitor: A two-state solution?
Hamad: We do not say “two states.” We agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, within the 1967 borders, and that this would include a solution to the refugee problem. What I can tell you is that all factions in the movement agree to this and are prepared to accept it. [Continue reading…]