EXCLUSIVE: Hamas: Exchanging prisoners with Israel has to be under Egyptian auspices



Sun, 22 Oct 2017 - 04:37 GMT


Sun, 22 Oct 2017 - 04:37 GMT

Mousa Abu Marzouk captured by Ahmed Gomaa

Mousa Abu Marzouk captured by Ahmed Gomaa

CAIRO – 22 October 2017: “The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) needs to be restructured in order to compensate for the stalemate and slackness of the past,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, member of the Hamas Political Bureau, told Egypt Today on Thursday.

In an exclusive interview with Egypt Today, Abu Marzouk revealed that the security issue was one of the most important files discussed recently with the Fatah movement in Cairo.

He further explained that the expected meeting between the Palestinian factions in Egypt will discuss the formation of a national unity government and arrangements for holding presidential and legislative elections.

Egypt Today has included the full interview below.

After the announcement of the agreement with Fatah in Cairo... Is Hamas concerned with Abbas’s (Abu Mazen) failure in lifting the sanctions against Gaza?
The sanctions were imposed months earlier and we in the Hamas movement hope that President Abu Mazen will lift all sanctions imposed on the people of Gaza, and do everything in his power to fold the page of the Palestinian division.

Abu Mazen seeks to take many steps to unify the Palestinian political system and its institutions to reach a sustainable Palestinian reconciliation. The government now has the responsibility of cancelling all the decrees it has adopted, in addition to lifting the imposed sanctions on the Palestinian citizens in Gaza; most notably in electricity, health, discounts and retirement referrals.

When will the reconciliation government fully assume its functions in the Gaza Strip?

The Palestinian reconciliation government, headed by Rami Hamdallah, came to the Gaza Strip and assumed its duties in the presence and under the leadership of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service; and thus is now mandated to exercise its functions as a government for all Palestinians.

The final meeting in Cairo may put matters in perspective both in terms of employees and the legal and administrative committee. The government is now entrusted with the transfer of all obligations and agreements, as well as all administrative and financial responsibilities and the rights of third parties.

It is also responsible for the cancellation of all dismissal decisions carried out on employees who were appointed prior to 2007, and approving them in accordance with their legal and financial status. That is in addition to integrating staff recruited after 2007, as well.

Have you been discussing the security file in Cairo? Will Egypt have a role?
The security file is one of the most intricate files due to the existence of two security institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with structures and doctrines that are distinct from each other. That file topped the recent dialogues with the Fatah movement in Cairo.

Hamas and Fatah are cooperating on this file, especially taking into consideration the sensitivity of the file. Both movements are also working steadily on the file, so as not to rush matters and have the reconciliation adversely affected. Egypt will follow up on this dossier first and will play a pivotal role in it.

This security file has not been discussed previously and maybe this time discussing this issue may lead to delving into issues that went unaddressed before. I think that the 2011 agreement concluded in Cairo will be enough to meet the needs of the understandings. Applying the agreement will further better the situation.

There have been talks over exchanging prisoners with Israel. Are you ready to enter into a new deal with Israel?

Hamas has set clear conditions for discussing this matter; no talk on exchanging prisoners will happen unless the Israeli occupation fulfills previous agreements.
We believe that Egypt, as the sponsor of the first agreement, will be able to force the occupation to oblige in terms of what they have agreed on before.

Israel has to release detainees from the Wafaa el Ahrar and Shalit deals in order for new deals to be considered.

What are the most urgent issues in Gaza that need to be resolved quickly?
What matters most to Hamas is the dismantling of the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. The crisis is complex and intertwined with many issues. We want the Palestinian citizen to live with dignity and humanity; we want to provide the basic elements of a steadfast life.

The humanitarian crisis deprives citizens of being able to move back and forth in the Gaza Strip. In addition to the increase in social problems due to the high rates of poverty and unemployment, especially among young people. The poverty rate reached 65 percent and unemployment is now at 41 percent, compared to 18 percent in the West Bank.

These indices were the result of the national accord government ignoring its responsibilities in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, there is national concern over the re-arrangement of the Palestinian political system and the elections of the National Council and the Legislative Council.

That is in addition to the concerns over the new government taking up its duties and files, and assuming full responsibility.

Has the employees’ file been discussed and how will it be dealt with? Will any of the employees receive pensions?

The employees’ issue was the first issue discussed in the first day of the Cairo meeting, and we found that the issue of employees is occupies a large part in all issues. We confirmed that job security is the right of every employee serving in the public sector.

An agenda was devised to handle these issues. Firstly, the West Bank is entitled to 60 percent of the budget, while the other 40 percent are designated to the Gaza Strip.

Secondly, the government is responsible for the Executive Committee on Public Affairs, which should provide all the necessities.

Thirdly, employment will be just and fair to all; regardless of affiliations. Fourthly, the government will cancel the dismissal decisions for the 2007 employees, regardless of the reasons they were dismissed for. The employees will be accredited according to their legal statuses and positions.

Fifth, whatever applies to employees today will also apply to those employed in 2007.
Finally, the government is responsible for rehabilitating and preparing logistic matters in the ministries; in addition to looking into those over 50 years of age and addressing all issues of employees affected by the division.

What are the main points that will be discussed in the next meeting between factions in Egypt?

Egypt will invite all Palestinian factions that are signatories to the Cairo Agreement to hold a meeting in Cairo to consult over the formation of a national unity government. Arrangements for holding presidential and legislative elections and elections for the National Council will also be discussed.

Furthermore, several other issues will be discussed and that includes the Palestine Liberation Organization and its call framework for provisional leadership. In addition, the legislative council, as well as, community reconciliation and public liberties will also be tackled.

Will Hamas participate in any national unity government in the future?
Hamas will not back down from serving the Palestinian people. Hamas will honor the highest national interest by entering the Palestinian government. There is Palestinian consensus on the formation of a national unity government, and Hamas will honor that.

Can a mechanism be implemented to control the weapon of resistance so that it will be used in accordance with a comprehensive national decision?

The Palestinian people, like Arab peoples, believe that the resistance's weapon is a red line that cannot be stepped on or even discussed.

We succeeded in coordinating with the Palestinian resistance forces in controlling the resistance's weapons and using them for the supreme national interest.

We extend our hand to all partners for peace and war resolution. It is well known that the right of resistance is guaranteed to our Palestinian people in facing the occupation; especially since all other means have not yielded any results. The resistance remains the only safeguard for granting our people their full rights, hopes and ambitions.

Is Hamas ready to join the PLO?

The PLO cannot remain in its present form. It represents the Palestinian people without including every segment of the people; including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The PLO needs to be restructured in order to compensate for the stalemate and slackness of the past.

Is Hamas looking to normalize relations in Syria? Does Hezbollah play a role?
This is not on the movement’s agenda, nor has it been deliberated between the movement's leadership.

What about the border between Palestine and Egypt; did you discuss this issue with Egypt?

We in Hamas are keen on the security of our neighbors in Egypt and Egyptian national security as a whole, and we refuse to violate it under any form.

We discussed the issue of border control several times with the Egyptian leadership, and reached understandings a few months ago. Our Egyptian neighbors have noticed and praised our efforts in Gaza. The Palestinian side is set to act with the utmost accuracy, professionalism and efficiency.

Is Hamas committed to its understandings with Dahlan or will it back down?

Dahlan played a role in bringing together our perspectives and those of our neighbors in Egypt. The understandings with them are mostly social and do not conflict with Palestinian reconciliation, but we are looking for a Palestinian reconciliation and a comprehensive national reconciliation for all components.

We are looking for spectrums of Palestinian people to serve in our battle to end the Israeli occupation.

In your opinion, how important is Egypt's sponsorship of the reconciliation agreement at the moment?

For Hamas, Egypt’s role in the Palestinian cause is unchanged. Egypt will continue to play an important role in the Palestinian cause.

What steps should the Palestinian leadership take in light of the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and the accelerated Judaizing of Jerusalem?

The occupation has expanded to rates unprecedented. Palestinian cities nowadays look like separate islands. The expansion into Jerusalem which is erasing its Islamic identity is accelerating; especially since the Palestinian leadership is embroiled in secondary matters, and the reconciliation with the Israeli occupation.

This is another reason why the reconciliation needs to be concluded swiftly; so that Palestine’s position can be stronger against the occupation. We in Hamas have dissolved the administrative committee to render President Abbas powerful in the face of the occupation.

Finally, can Moussa Abu Marzouk send a message to the Egyptian and Palestinian people?

The Egyptian and Palestinian people are linked by close ties and a profound national and historical relationship. You will find a shared culture between us in the most minute details of two peoples’ lives. We want peace, prosperity and development in both countries because we deserve to live better.



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