A leading spokesman for the Islamic Resistance Movement has played down the effect of the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and its international allies as a strategy to wrest political concessions from Hamas over basic issues. Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil said that all efforts related to national reconciliation and a prisoner swap deal are frozen at the moment, despite the siege of the territory.
In an exclusive statement to Quds Press, Dr. Al-Bardawil said that communication with the Egyptian government in Cairo, which has been acting as an intermediary on Palestinian reconciliation has stopped. "There are no reconciliation efforts on the ground, nor are there moves to finalise the prisoner swap related to the Zionist soldier, Gilad Shalit," he said, adding that there is no communication with Cairo at all, "apart from matters such as permission for patients to leave Gaza for treatment or the return of deceased Palestinians across the Rafah crossing."
Dr. Al-Bardawil noted that the hardships caused by the blockade are increasing daily, with the obvious aim of changing the ruling party's political stances, dragging it into the political process and recognizing Israel. "There is a lot of pressure on [Palestinian] prisoners [in Israeli jails] to blackmail them into adopting certain stances; and the siege is being tightened," he said. "The arrests that are taking place in the West Bank nowadays including the re-arrest of some freed prisoners - have to be looked at in the context of blackmail in an effort to extract concessions from Hamas and drag it into a forced settlement."
He is adamant that what he calls "blackmail" will not change Hamas's strategic positions, and Dr. Al-Badawil added, "Hamas is growing and becoming increasingly popular among Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims and is the main obstacle to Israel's attempt to eliminate the Palestinian cause as a major issue. The movement cannot give in to this pressure or recognize the Zionist entity no matter what this costs; Hamas will not abandon any of the Palestinian people's principles. We see this pressure - from the US, the European Union and regional countries - to be severe tests which we are happy to accept for the sake of the rights of our people."