Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Isma'il Haniyah: 'We are the legitimate government'

Interview with Palestinian [National] Authority Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyah by Patrick de Saint-Paul in Gaza.

Some people accuse Hamas of having carried out a coup d'etat in the Gaza Strip. How do you reply to that?
I reply to them with a question: a coup d'etat against whom? Against ourselves? We embody legitimacy. We are the legitimate government, resulting from a democratically elected parliament. Why take control of Gaza by force?
Following the signing of the Mecca inter-Palestinian agreements, which permitted the formation of a national unity government, a propaganda war was launched against Hamas. Fatah has behaved with certain security services as though they were a militia affiliated to it. Once they were deployed in the streets, the services setup roadblocks, arrested and killed people because of their membership of a party, because they wore beards. They behaved like pirates. Then they opened fire on the Council of Ministers and fired a rocket at the prime minister's residence. It was necessary to put a stop to this security disorder. Calm will return and I think that the security situation will be much better than before. Now there will be only one legitimate weapon. We will make discipline and law reign in Gaza. It will thus be easier to secure the release of British journalist Allan Johnston. His kidnappers will heed us more.
What are your intentions?
My government will continue its work. As a for our programme, it is clear. We want the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, that is, in Gaza and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The PLO remains in charge of negotiations on this point. We pledge to abide by all the agreements reached, signed by the Palestinian [National] Authority. We want the establishment of a reciprocal, comprehensive, and simultaneous truce with Israel.
Will you proclaim a state in Gaza?
No. Gaza belongs to the entire Palestinian people, and not only to Hamas. We reject any idea of separation between the Palestinian territories, between East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, which are inseparable. Separation is not on the agenda and will never be so.
The EU has expressed his support for President Mahmud al-Abbas. What do you expect from it?
We thank the EU for the help given to the Palestinian people. We hope to preserve and develop these relations. We hope that Europe will continue its efforts for a lifting of the embargo. But we hope above all that it will help the Palestinians to achieve their legitimate national aspirations - the establishment of an independent state.