To mark the second anniversary of the prisoners swap reached between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli occupation in 2011, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh delivered a speech in Gaza for the Palestinians in Palestine and abroad.
In that historic swap, 1,050 Palestinian prisoners were released in return for the release of the Israeli soldier captured by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza.
He also congratulated the Palestinians on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha.
In his speech, Haniyeh raised three key points about the prisoner swap: “It undermined Israel’s security establishment, which remained searching for the abducted soldier for five years, never finding him. Then, the occupation authorities were obliged to accept the conditions of the resistance. It also showcased the sincere efforts made by the mediators, led by Egypt, and it proved that prisoners are still the focal point of the resistance, and that freeing them is still our primary aim.”
While he spoke about the many challenges facing the Palestinians today, he expressed his belief that a prospective resolution is soon approaching: “Among all the efforts to steal our land, our rights and deny our self-determination, we always trust in our victory.”
He told Palestinians that victory is approaching because of “our trust in Allah and our trust in our nation, which still insists to continue its resistance to protect our principles and regain our rights.”
Another reason why he is expecting victory soon is popular trust in the Palestinian resistance, which has had many important achievements, including the prisoners swap and the victories against Israeli attempts to eradicate the resistance in Gaza in 2008/9 and 2012.
Haniyeh expressed his hope that the Arab and Islamic nations are still supporting the Palestinian cause and Palestinian rights. “This would be the fourth reason for why victory is close,” he said. “This is very clear in their attempts at breaking the siege on Gaza.”
In addition, he appreciated the “great efforts” that have been carried out by the free people around the globe in support of Palestinian rights and the Palestinian cause against Zionist greed. One example he cited was Rachel Corrie, an American activist who was killed in 2002 by an Israeli bulldozer that was razing Palestinian homes in Rafah.
He also hailed the persistence of his movement, which remains loyal to its primary aim that it was launched to achieve: liberating Palestinian lands from the Zionist occupation.
He condemned Israel’s attempts to Judaise Jerusalem by targeting Islamic and Christian sites and trying to change the city’s demographics. He explained that the Judaisation project aims to be complete by 2020, with Arabs a minority of not more than 20 per cent among the holy city’s residents. He criticised the attempts to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as the increasing numbers of settlements in both occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“We know that the Israeli occupation increases settlements to buy more time, which is then spent on negotiations,” he said.
He hailed the popular efforts in the West Bank that try to undermine all Israeli projects in the occupied territories based on security cooperation.
He severely criticised the negotiations, because they involve complete submission to the Israeli occupation and following its dictations step by step. He said that the current negotiations are taking place after a unilateral decision that most Palestinians oppose.
“We learnt from the experiences of other nations that it is important to take both pathways: resistance and negotiations,” he affirmed. “The only beneficiary of these negotiations is the Israeli occupation, which improves its image before the international community.”
Regarding internal reconciliation, he explained that Israeli and American efforts are the main obstacles hindering it. “Whenever we are on the verge of an agreement, the Americans initiate new political projects in order to push our brothers in Fatah to postpone finalising the agreement,” he said.
He called for Fatah to come to a reconciliation agreement based on the terms achieved earlier by the Egyptian and Qatari mediators.
Commenting on his government’s relations with the Arab states in the region, he stated: “We [the government and Hamas] have established political relations with all Arab and Islamic states, and consider them strategic allies in the Palestinian cause.”
He continued: “We have never sided with a state against another, hoping to distance ourselves and our nation from being involved in any internal conflicts between any sister states or any sister factions in any of these states.”
He added: “Since the first spark of the Arab Spring, we took the side of the nations and supported the demands and hopes for freedom. Based on this principle, we have supported and continue to support political solutions that achieve the demands of the nations, and at the same time avoid bloodshed.”
He said that he is proud of the Islamic background of his government and movement, but he insisted that this has never been a barrier to his movement tailoring relations with secular or communist parties in either the Arab and Islamic states or the international community.
About the recent problems experienced by Palestinian refugees, who are being exposed to violence in Syria and sometimes in Lebanon, and who live in desperate circumstances in the new refugee camps in Europe, even dying at sea, he called for the Palestinian Authority and Fatah to take serious collective measures to find the best solutions to these problems.
“This is our common interest as Palestinian leaders and for the Palestinian resistance,” he declared. In the meantime, he criticised the attempts to defame his government and his movement by Palestinian and Arab officials and mass media.
Regarding relations with Egypt, he explained: “We had good relations with Egypt as the big sister, since Egypt faces the same political, economic, social and humanitarian challenges as Palestine.”
“We have done our best to strengthen this relationship and, therefore, we established good relations with all the Egyptian factions. And despite the defamation campaign against us, we continue to refrain from interfering in Egypt’s internal issues.”
In this regard, Haniyeh affirmed that his government and his movement have no involvement with any of the violent incidents that have taken place in the Sinai, saying that: “We feel shocked at the violence taking place there.”
He criticised the severe war on the tunnels and the “irregularity” of the functioning of the Rafah Crossing. “This negatively affects the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” he said. He blamed the Israeli occupation for the siege on the Strip.
At the end of his speech, Haniyeh hailed the achievements of his government in the field of supporting the steadfastness of the residents of Gaza and in the security field.
He noted that despite the difficult circumstance his government experiences, it was able to initiate a project to create temporary work opportunities for 10,000 unemployed for one year.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad