'Not Lovers of Blood'; the Hamas Leader on Israel and the Palestinians

Article excerpt

Byline: Lally Weymouth

The surprise victory of the radical Hamas party in recent Palestinian elections presents the United States and Israel with a dilemma: how to pressure the militant Islamists without causing a humanitarian crisis. Hamas is on the U.S. terrorist list, and the American government currently has no contacts with it. Israel won't deal with Hamas, either. Yet if the international community cuts off millions of dollars in aid to the Hamas-led government, ordinary Palestinians will suffer. Last week NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth spoke by phone to the newly designated Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. He was speaking from Shati refugee camp in Gaza, where he lives with his wife and 12 children. Excerpts:

Weymouth: Were you surprised by the size of the Hamas victory?

Haniyeh: Hamas entered the elections planning to be victorious.

Palestinian President Abu Mazen and the international community have put forward conditions for dealing with Hamas: (1) recognize Israel, (2) recognize existing agreements with Israel made by the PLO, (3) renounce violence. Will you agree to these conditions?

We are surprised that such conditions are imposed on us. Why don't they direct such conditions and questions to Israel? We say let Israel recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians first, and then we will have a position regarding this.

Israel has agreed to a two-state solution, and Israel has signed agreements with the PLO, and it withdrew from Gaza. So, will Hamas accept any of the agreements that the PLO made with Israel?

The withdrawal from Gaza was based on a unilateral decision and a unilateral plan. It was not [done] out of the generosity of Israel. We ask, is Israel committed to all these agreements? We are not war seekers nor are we war initiators. We are not lovers of blood. We are oppressed people with rights. If peace brings us our rights, then this is good.

Do you accept the Oslo agreement, which was signed by Yasir Arafat?

Israel has stopped completely committing itself to Oslo.

I am not asking about Israel. Are you, as the new Palestinian prime minister, committed to Oslo?

How do you want me not to pay attention or care about what Israel says? …