During a recent interview, the chief of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, denied that his movement is behind the bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv on November 21; expressed surprise at demands that he recognise Israel while Palestine is yet to receive international recognition; and stressed that he accepts a state within the 1967 territory. Meshaal also denied that Hamas has cut its ties with Iran as a result of the dispute over Syria.
Speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview which aired on Thursday, Meshaal said, "Israel is responsible for the recent escalation in the Gaza Strip following its incursions and the assassination of the leader of the military wing of the Al-Qassam Brigades, Ahmed al-Jabari." He went on to add, "the Israeli side is responsible for the escalation in Gaza and Hamas does not target civilians."
When asked about whether he thought killing civilians inside Israel was a legitimate part of what he calls resistance, Meshaal said, "The Resistance does not target civilians. We must go back to the origin of the issue. The Palestinian people were living in peace and security before Israel occupied our land. According to international law, and according to the divine laws, when people are occupied, they resist with all that they have. Israel has an advanced army that has committed numerous massacres from Deir Yassin to Sabra and Shatila."
Meshaal continued, "We are defending our people and our land and I will respond. I'm the leader of Hamas and through CNN I tell the whole world that we are ready to resort to a peaceful way, truly peaceful way, without blood and weapons, as long as we attain our Palestinian national demands, including bringing an end to the occupation, establishing a state and meeting our other national objectives."
Mashaal said he thought that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had given Israel and the international community the opportunity to reach a peaceful solution, but that, "Israel killed him." He added, "Mahmoud Abbas, whom the world welcomed, gave this opportunity to Israel and to the international community. What did they do? They made him fail. They let him down."
He added, "Today the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, like all previous leaders of the occupation, besieges us. They want the continuation of the occupation and the settlements, what does the world wants from the Palestinians? We are the victims and they want us to raise the white flag?"
When he was asked about the movement's previous decision not to recognize Israel and the possibility of reconsidering this decision, Meshaal said, "First of all, the offer must come from the attacker, from Israel, which has the arsenal, not from the victim. Second, I say to you that for 20 years and more, the Palestinians and Arabs are offering peace. But peace is destroying peace through aggression and war and killing."
He explained his point of view by saying, "We have two options. No other. Either there's an international will, led by the U.S., Europe and the international community and Israel is forced to adopt the way of peace, a Palestinian state according to the 1967 border, and the right of return. This is something we have agreed upon as Palestinians, as a common program. However, if Israel continues to refuse this, either we force them to or we resort to resistance. I accept a state in the 1967 borders. How can I accept Israel? They have occupied my land. I need recognition, not the Israelis. This is a reversed question."
Meshaal stressed that his movement would not back down on the issue of the "right of return" for Palestinians, saying: "why is the international community silent about the law of the right of return? – the law that allows every Israelis to return and the people accept this. The world
accepts this. There are Jews who have never seen Palestine; while the Palestinian who was born on — in Palestine, or his grandfather or his father was born there don't have the right to return?
He added: "I want to establish a state for the Palestinians, and after that, this state will decide its position towards Israel, this question could not be asked to me (recognition of Israel) as I'm in prisons and under Zionist pressure.
As for the compatibility of Hamas's acceptance of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders: one Palestinian state from the river to the sea, Meshaal said: "Palestine, from the river to the sea, from the north to the south, it is my land. And the land of my fathers and grandfathers, inhibited by the Palestinians from a long time ago. This is my land, my right, but due to the circumstances of the region; due to our keenness to stop the bloodshed, Palestinians today and in the past, and Hamas, have agreed about a program that accepts the '67 borders. However, the Israelis don't accept this. So it is up to the Israelis. And the international community is failing to do us justice."
He denied that Hamas had claimed responsibility for the bombing in Tel Aviv through messages broadcasted via its Twitter account, however he added, " I tell you, this operation is part of the massive ramifications that – and there will be more – are an angry reaction from our angry Palestinian people because of the aggression against Gaza.
On the reason for leaving Hamas' headquarters in Damascus, Meshaal said: "10 months after the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, I left Damascus – in January 2011 – after I despaired of treating the Syrian crisis politically.
Meshaal asserted that he disagreed with Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, on the handling of the situation, saying: "I told him from day one that the Syrian crisis is an internal crisis that began with the demands of the people. Yes, it's an internal issue; however, given our history with the Syrian leadership, I advised him that the Syrian crisis is part of the Arab Spring and demands for reform; that it requires a political solution and initiative from the Syrian leadership. Then when they resorted to use of the security and military, which led to bloodshed, I estimated that my efforts were going to fail."
He denied that the Movement's exit from Syria has led to the interruption of relations with Iran, saying: "The relationship with Iran is present. But, yes, it was affected and harmed by our disagreement about Syria. It is not the way it used to be in the past but it still exists and changes according to the different circumstances. The Syrian crisis impacted our relationship with the Iranians but the links are still there. "