Hamas’ Abu Marzouk: all Palestinians ‘object’ to talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel

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Senior Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk speaks to media in Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza strip after the negotiations in Cairo, on August 28, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Rahim Khatib)

By: Mohammed Hanieh

Published Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Following a barrage of daily media attacks between Hamas and Fatah, everyone was all smiles as their two delegations met in Cairo. This coincided with yet another announcement of an agreement on "previously agreed on points." Deputy head of Hamas’ politburo, Moussa Abu Marzouk, spoke to Al-Akhbar about the details of the agreement and other issues.

Moussa Abu Marzouk is one of the main cornerstones of Hamas’ leadership and one of those planning for its future. His positions had been controversial, being one of the architects of reconciliation with Fatah and involved in the majority of indirect negotiations with the occupation. Formerly head of Hamas politburo, he is currently the deputy for foreign affairs.

Al-Akhbar: It is well known that the main disagreement [between Hamas and Fatah] was related to the salaries [for public sector employees] of the former Gaza government. You said the matter had been resolved. What are the terms of the agreement?

Mousa Abu Marzouk: The agreement was clear and without equivocation. It considers that all employees before and after the split [between the Ramallah and Gaza governments] had been working for the Palestinian Authority. Following the establishment of the "consensus" government, an administrative and legal committee was set up to review the files of those appointed after the split, in order to rank them and appoint them to appropriate positions based on their abilities and qualifications, in addition to the period of their service. This was in accordance of the laws enforced by the Authority. The committee was given a maximum of four months and employees will keep receiving stipends.

AA: The security issue was also an obstacle, no less important than the salaries. What did you agree on concerning this issue?

MM: I can say that there are parts that were addressed and agreed upon. However, other issues are still being discussed by the two sides. Until that time comes, 3,000 security personnel will return to their jobs in Gaza, according to a previous agreement. They will be integrated into the existing security forces, according to each of their qualifications. As for the timing, the agreement should be implemented the moment it is signed. However, this is not a prerequisite, due to details that need clarifications and agreement between workers in the security forces. Thus, it is expected that there will be some delays in implementing the security dossier.

AA: How about the higher committee for the integration of security services, will Egypt be leading it?

MM: We agreed to form a higher committee in principle, which arose from the 2012 reconciliation meeting in Cairo. Security appointments will be through decrees issued by President Mahmoud Abbas. There are other appointments from the government, where an agreement should be reached. Yes, an Arab committee will be formed and headed by Egypt. However, it will take some time until others are ready to join and make the necessary arrangements and Cairo is prepared to do it.

AA: Will you allow the return of the Fatah members who left the Strip?

MM: No one is stopping them from coming back and anyone can return to Gaza. What we are saying is that, in specific cases, certain elements have blood on their hands. If they are ready to address this issue through the legal process, their return will not be refused. But the best option is for them wait for the social reconciliation committee to complete its tasks and settle their affairs.

AA: What is the progress regarding reconstruction and readiness for the winter?

MM: The reconstruction conference will be held as announced on November 12. The donors will determine how to spend their money, in addition to the presence of sides responsible for the import of materials, like the United Nations, the Authority, and Gaza's businessmen. We agreed on this and looked into the mechanism proposed by the UN, which is the same one it adopted in the previous projects supported by the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The cost will certainly be high, but we do not have a problem with that. The UN does not promote its own agenda and has a wealth of experience in the region, especially in Gaza.

AA: And what about the plan of UN Middle East Envoy Robert Siri to monitor the reconstruction?

MM: I don't know anyone who saw Siri's plan. Although it is normal for supporting countries and the occupation to demand supervision, but we do not want to hinder the reconstruction process or complicate the plan and exclude the entry of certain materials.

AA: The situation in Rafah remains the same, with [the crossing] only partially operating. Are there any developments?

MM: To be clear, Rafah crossing was not on our agenda this time or even the last time. It is on the agenda of the Authority, since Egypt insisted on recognizing an official Palestinian side in order to open Rafah crossing. When this problem is settled, we will have time to talk about it. Since we expect the Rami Alhamdulillah government to take positive steps in various spheres, we would like to see a solution to the crossings issue quickly.

AA: What about other dossiers like the elections and the higher commission to monitor the agreement?

MM: The members of the higher committee have not been named yet. However, bilateral contacts are ongoing to create the committee and launch its work. As for the elections, it would be natural for the government to focus on preparing for the elections, in a time frame between six months and a year at the most. We are waiting for the president to prepare a decree for general elections. Hamas will definitely participate in all the elections, as it is not a secondary or marginal faction, and all options are on the table. On the other hand, all popular segments must be able to exercise their electoral rights, especially the National Council.

AA: What about the presidential elections?

MM: Hamas will have a position on the presidential elections, but the issue has not been studied yet. On the other hand, we agreed to hold a session for the Legislative Council on November 15. There are deadlines that should be met through the decisions of this session. Regarding the PLO, we agreed to sit down, but the date is contingent on various issues. Some linked to the president and others to Hamas, in addition to the remaining factions. We did not disagree on the place yet, but the meeting should take place.

AA: Recently, it was claimed that you delegated Mahmoud Abbas to handle more than one issue. Does this include political matters?

MM: We said clearly that everything that relates to the political process should conform with the National Charter drafted in Cairo. The charter is more or less a common political program for the whole Palestinian political spectrum. Our position will be positive regarding political action in accordance with the National Charter and we will not stand in the way. However, it seems that the US position is critical of President Abbas regarding the Palestinian state. The US should not have put itself in this position. It is a major power and the sponsor of all agreements and accords, but it should not be biased towards the [Israeli] entity.

AA: So you agree with the negotiations planned by the president of the PNA?

MM: We oppose the current manner of the negotiations and all Palestinians have objections to the talks between the Authority and Israel, since they will only have destructive effects. This is why there is a general call to put an end to this particular process.

AA: But in the past, you mentioned that you do not mind direct negotiations with the occupation. To what extent does Hamas believe in this, strategically and politically?

MM: I say: nobody said anything against the policies adopted by Hamas, which stress that there will be no direct negotiations with the entity. Our position is firm in this direction.

AA: But newspapers in the Gulf and Egypt reported the same information about Hamas seriously considering direct negotiations.

MM: I believe the quotes attributed to anonymous sources linked to Hamas about direct negotiations with Israel to be of little validity.

AA: How about indirect negotiations scheduled for the end of next month. Do you think the occupation will abide by the decisions?

MM: The negotiations are between two sides and no agreement will be reached without the approval of both. If they are broken by one side, the other side will have papers to guarantee their interests and political track. In my opinion, the enemy needs to negotiate as much as we do, since we need to secure a lot of issues for our people. The enemy also knows it needs to negotiate.

AA: There are fears that the question of the soldiers' remains will hamper the negotiations.

MM: Hamas did not announce anything about soldiers. They spoke of soldiers and bodies. The negotiating team does not have any information about this issue.

AA: Final question: Were you asked to leave Qatar and how true is the information about disagreements with Doha?

MM: This is totally false. Nothing has changed in our relationship with Doha or others.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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