One week after the signing of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation pact, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal announced Wednesday that his movement remains committed to jihad [holy war] against Israel.
Mashaal, in the first public comments after the deal, said, “Our path is resistance and the rifle and our choice is jihad.”
Israel handed the bodies of the two brothers to the Palestinian Authority more 16 years after they were killed by IDF soldiers in the West Bank.
Mashaal said that in wake of the failure of the peace talks with Israel, the Palestinians were in need of a unified political decision and a joint strategy that would lead to the “liberation of our lands and holy sites and the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes.”
The Hamas leader voiced optimism over the prospects of success for the unity agreement, which was signed last week between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
He added that while Hamas was in favor of political and diplomatic action against Israel in the international arena, “there is no past or future without jihad and resistance. Jihad is our path.”
Another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, told Reuters that the unity pact with Fatah would not change his movement’s position toward Israel.
Zahar said that the deal does not mean that Hamas would recognize Israel’s right to exist or that Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip would have to report to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Zahar said that Abbas decided to strike the deal with Hamas after the US-sponsored peace talks failed to achieve progress. He claimed that Abbas was facing huge pressure from the Americans because of the unity accord with Hamas.
Zahar said that this was the reason why Abbas was not in a rush to start consultations over the formation of a unity government.
According to Zahar, Abbas wants to guarantee continued American financial aid to the PA.
A Fatah official in Ramallah responded to Zahar’s remarks by saying that they don’t help the case of unity and may even hinder its implementation.
An Israeli government official responded to the remarks by saying that they "speak for themselves and expose the myth that Hamas has somehow changed or moderated its positions." Hamas, the official said, "remains an extremist jihadist organization committed to the destruction of Israel."
Referring to Abbas, he said "it is clear that Palestinian leaders cannot come to Israel and say they want peace if they forge an alliance with these killers." Nevertheless, Israel\’s message to the international community is that if Abbas reneges on the pact, or if it falls through, the direct talks that fell apart last week could be re-started.
However, he said, if the Palestinian unity accord is "consummated" and a Palestinian government unity government backed by Hamas is established, "we will look at what the alternatives are."
The official said that Netanyahu has initiated a "process of discussion to explore what the policy options are." He said "working discussions" have begun, and that Netanyahu has called on cabinet ministers, as well as people from outside the government, to present their policy ideas.
"We don\’t want a situation whereby because of Palestinian extremism, the only option is the status quo," the official said.