For all the focus on American and European pressure on Israel to stop housing construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank as an opening to peace talks, virtually no attention has been given to clear and intransigent statements from Hamas that it has no interest in a peaceful compromise with Israel.
Khaled Meshaal, head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, says his organization remains determined to continue "resistance" and that most of its money would be invested in military preparations. In an interview with the website Filisteen al-'An (Palestine Now), Meshaal declared Hamas would not recognize Israel and would continue fighting to capture all of Palestine.
Hamas controls Gaza and Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party controls the West Bank. It is generally accepted that no peace deal is possible while the Palestinian factions remain split and in competition with each other.
Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel triggered Operation Cast Lead, a military operation last winter targeting terrorist bases in Gaza. Since the fighting ended in late January, Hamas has been preparing for the next round of war with Israel, Meshaal said.
The Israel-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reports that in the Filisteen al-'An interview, Meshaal made the following points [Emphasis added throughout]:
- Hamas, which has financial duties, needs contributions to finance "resistance." Meshaal called on Arabs to enlist contributions in preparation for the next stage of violence against Israel. He warned against conditioning financial support to Hamas on its carrying out attacks because the group invests the money for future operations.
- Most of Hamas' efforts in Gaza are invested in military preparations – not on rebuilding war-shattered infrastructure. "On the surface, [statements in Gaza] refer to reconciliation [between Hamas and Fatah] and rebuilding. However, what is revealed is that most of Hamas' funds and efforts are invested in the resistance and military preparations…We are intent on the resistance."
- Hamas will never recognize Israel and will not abandon "resistance." He said "We will not recognize Israel, we will not give up the resistance, we cling to every inch of Palestinian soil; other statements are political maneuvers."
- Renewing terrorism in the West Bank. It will take time to renew "resistance" there because the necessary conditions on the ground do not exist. But "the jihad continues until Judgment Day."
During the November 12 interview in the Syrian capital, Meshaal did not address the fate of Sgt. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped in a June 25, 2006 cross-border raid by Hamas operatives based in Gaza. Israel and Hamas are conducting negotiations through Egyptian mediation on a deal that would free Shalit in exchange for the release of hundreds of imprisoned terrorists.
In the negotiations for Shalit's freedom, Hamas officials are demanding that Israel release leading terrorists including Ahmed Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Marwan Barghouti, a senior Fatah member.
The Shalit negotiations have renewed a longstanding debate within Israel over how far the government should be prepared to go to secure the release of Israelis captured on the battlefield. Since the founding of the state, Israeli policy has been to leave no stone unturned to win the release of prisoners (including the release of imprisoned terrorists). In numerous cases these freed terrorists have returned to the battlefield to kill more Israelis.