Hamas leader: Israel creating obstacles to reach prisoner exchange deal
By Viola Campali, Rome
Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Meshaal, is quoted Sunday as saying his movement is ready to release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. According to the Damascus-based leader, Hamas is ready to free Shalit while Israeli premier Ehud Olmert keeps changing the rules of the agreement.
Meshaal said that Israel is creating obstacles to reach a prisoner exchange deal. "The terms of the agreement are already known for three years, and the Egyptians know this. It is to free 1000 Palestinians. Now, Olmert changes the rules: of the first 450 prisoners, (he wants) the majority will not be released," Meshaal told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
Meshaal declared that so far under Obama administration the world is witnessing a new message from the United States to the Middle East. Now, he continued, it is time to wait for a sincere change in the American and European Union policies. The Hamas' leader is convinced that international powers need Hamas in order to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. He stressed that Hamas' weight on the Palestinian issue comes from the movement's deep roots in the society. He affirmed that the people who voted for Hamas in 2006 will support it again. According to him, even the war in Gaza has not weakened Hamas, as expected by Israel. "We remain on the table of world leaders," highlighted Meshaal.
The Italian newspaper said French president Nicola Sarkozy is in favor of a dialogue with Hamas but warned it has to start using diplomatic means. Asked what he thinks about Sarkozy's position on a possible Hamas' diplomatic approach, Meshaal answered "I wish". And he continued by saying "I wait for the day when our only option will be a political and peaceful approach. But there are other people, not me, to determine the route." According to Meshaal, the Israeli occupation impedes the attainment of peace. The exiled Hamas leader is concerned with confiscated lands, settlements, the separation wall, the siege of Gaza, and then killing and arrests. "How can Israel expects peace?" He asked "We are pushed to continue a double path made of politics and resistance."
Meshaal reiterated his movement stance not to recognize Israel. "What does it mean recognition of Israel when it is imposed only on us and not on others: it is not imposed to Syria to whom the US and Israel want to talk." Referring to the all to destroy Israel in Hamas convention, Meshaal sustained that a "document has never been an obstacle to peace". Plus, he continued that "such a document is related to a specific historical moment."
When asked to sum up Hamas' official position, Meshaal answered that this coincides with the organization's political program: a Palestinian state on the borders of 4 June 1967, including East Jerusalem and the recognition of the right of return of refugees.
Meshaal concluded by saying he is aware to the possibility he is the man that Israel's next premier Benjamin Netanyahu would like to eliminate more than any other. He said expects to become a "martyr" every day. But he concluded that it will happen when God decides. "This philosophy gives us more courage, patience and determination. This is perhaps our most powerful weapon".