Member of Hamas’ political bureau Mahmoud Al-Zahar announced that he is heading a Palestinian parliamentary delegation on a foreign tour aimed at mobilising support for the Palestinian people.
In an interview with Anadolu, Al-Zahar said that the delegation of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) started its tour from Turkey and will visit a large number of countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.
The delegation includes a number of leaders from the Change and Reform bloc of the Hamas movement in the PLC, among them Marwan Abu Ras, Mushir Al-Masri and Muhammad Al-Ghoul.
Al-Zahar said in an interview from the Turkish city of Istanbul that “the visits will include Islamic and non-Islamic countries”. He added that he preferred not to disclose the names of those countries the delegation will visit, so they “will not face obstacles”. “We will go to each country that accepts our visit,” he added.
As for the objectives of the upcoming visits, Al-Zahar said that the main aim is to mobilise support and advocacy for the Palestinian people and its resistance, as well as to emphasise the “legitimacy of the Palestinian Legislative Council”. Al-Zahar added:
We also seek to emphasise the legitimacy of the elected Legislative Council and the illegality of any other Palestinian body whatsoever, as it is not the outcome of elections. We also strive to confirm that the programme by which Hamas entered elections will not change.
With regard to the issue of Palestinian reconciliation, Al-Zahar said in the interview that the Hamas movement prepared response to the Egyptian position on reconciliation.
A delegation from the Hamas movement held talks last week with Egyptian officials on ending the Palestinian division. Last Sunday, a Fatah delegation also arrived in Cairo to discuss reconciliation.
Al-Zahar pointed out that Hamas is ready to participate in general elections and to respect its results. He added: “Last time we got the majority and I think that after the success of our programme and the failure of other programmes, we will represent the Palestinian people as [their] real representatives.”
Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo on 12 October 2017, but it was not fully implemented due to disagreements over issues such as the empowerment of the National Unity Government in the besieged Gaza Strip.
With regard to the efforts to conclude a truce with Israel, Al-Zahar said that Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have been engaged in consultations to reach an agreement. He added that “these efforts are aimed at easing the siege imposed on Gaza, in exchange for stopping Palestinian protests in the Gaza Strip near the border with Israel”. He went on to say:
The appeasement reflects positively on the resistance programme, because it repairs what was destroyed, and reflects negatively on the Israeli situation, as you saw in the resignation of Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
On 12 November the Israeli army launched attacks on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the death of seven Palestinians. Palestinian factions responded by firing dozens of rockets. The fighting ended the following day after a ceasefire was reached thanks to Egyptian and international mediation.
This short round of fighting provoked outrage among many groups in Israel, which considered it a “victory” for Hamas. Avigdor Lieberman resigned from his post as Defence Minister in protest against the ceasefire, accusing the government of submission to Hamas.
As for negotiations on the exchange of prisoners between Hamas and Israel, Al-Zahar confirmed that there is still no news. “So far we cannot say that there are serious negotiations,” he explained, adding: “The past experience began with a German mediator and ended with an Egyptian one. It was not respected by the Israeli occupation and led to the re-arrest of many former prisoners.”
Al-Zahar stressed his movement’s continued demand for the release of those detainees Israel returned to prison after they were released under the “Shalit Deal” in 2011, before starting any negotiations on a new deal. Under this deal, Hamas freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been detained since 2006, while Israel released around 1,000 Palestinians. However, it rearrested about 50 of these prisoners in 2014.
For its part, Hamas has been holding four Israelis in the Gaza Strip – including two soldiers – since 2014, but has not given any information as to whether they are dead or alive.
Al-Zahar also praised Qatar’s support for the Gaza Strip, saying:
We appreciate Qatar’s role in supporting the civilian sector in the Gaza Strip. Anyone who visits Gaza will see roads, cities and infrastructure constructed with grants from Qatar. Projects are continuing and the salaries of employees have been recently supported, although this issue was rejected by the Israeli occupation.
Qatar offers many aspects of support to the Palestinian people, especially in the Gaza Strip. Qatar’s former Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, visited the Strip in October 2012 and announced a $407 million grant for the reconstruction of Gaza through the implementation of “vital” projects there.
Since 2015, Qatar has been providing almost constant support to Gaza’s power plant, which has helped to ease power outages. On 10 October, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad announced the provision of $150 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the Strip.
The “Deal of the Century”
Al-Zahar stressed Hamas’ complete rejection of the expected US plan known as “The Deal of the Century”. He explained:
So far, all that has been published about the Deal of the Century is an attempt to feel the pulse. The fear of the Deal of the Century is not that the Palestinian Resistance will give up, but the fear actually comes from some Arab countries that began to normalise their relations with the Israeli entity in all fields.
The Hamas leader also denied “the existence of any direct or indirect contact with the US administration”. The “Deal of the Century” has been interpreted as forcing Palestinians to make unfair concessions to Israel, including on the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees. The Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, Ambassador Danny Danon, said on Tuesday that the plan “is now complete” and that Washington will unveil it early next year, without specifying a precise date.
Al-Zahar condemned the normalisation of relations with Israel recently undertaken by some Arab and Islamic countries, labelling it “a crime the Arab rulers commit against their peoples”. “I am sure if Arab rulers referred to their people concerning the normalisation issue, the people would definitely say no,” he added.
Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman. The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation – known as Kan – also reported that Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen received an official invitation to visit Bahrain in mid-April.
Last Sunday, Chad’s President Idriss Deby arrived in Israel in an unprecedented visit.
Al-Zahar denounced Washington’s financial reward for providing information about the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, Saleh Al-Arouri. He said: “Al-Arouri is a fighter for freedom. He is not involved in the drug or weapons trade. He is not a smuggling dealer, either. Al-Arouri’s land is occupied and what Washington is doing is hypocrisy.”
The United States announced a $5 million reward for information about Al-Arouri, as well as Hezbollah leaders Khalil Yousef Harb and Haytham Ali Tabtabai.