Palestinian Prime Minister Haniyeh: Retreat to 1967 borders will bring peace

By Danny Rubinstein

Haaretz

Iyyar 25, 5766

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Haaretz Monday that the Hamas government is prepared to agree to an extended cease-fire if Israel withdraws to the 1967 lines.

"If Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, peace will prevail and we will implement a cease-fire [hudna] for many years," Haniyeh said during an interview in his south Gaza office. "Our government is prepared to maintain a long-term cease-fire with Israel."

Palestinian Transportation Minister Ziad Zaza described the hudna during the interview as "the cease-fire that will be renewed automatically each time."

Haniyeh expressed surprise that the Israeli government has not been accepting of the Palestinian government's decision allowing its ministers to conduct negotiations with representatives of the Israeli government regarding day-to-day issues. The decision was one of the first that the Hamas government made, and Haniyeh sees it as fitting in with his approach - that his government is ready for talks with Israel on practical matters, though not on ideological or political issues.

When asked about his government's failure to indicate the slightest interest in changing its positions or to accept the Arab peace initiative presented at the 2002 Beirut summit, Haniyeh responded: "That is an issue between us and the Arabs."

The prime minister wouldn't discuss the Hamas charter rejecting the existence of Israel, saying, "Leave Hamas aside now - I am speaking to you as the leader of the Palestinian government, the government of all the Palestinians, and not as the leader of a movement."

Haniyeh and his associates are upset that their government has been depicted as a Hamas government, insisting that it be referred to as "the Palestinian government."

Haniyeh also said that Israel must give the Palestinian Authority the tax monies it has collected and decided to withhold. He said the transfer of NIS 50 million in medicines and medical supplies to Palestinian medical centers, which the cabinet approved Sunday, represented only a small portion of the money Israel must pay the Palestinians.

Despite the violent incidents that continued in the Gaza Strip yesterday, the crowded streets conveyed an impression of relative quiet. Members of the new Palestinian security force, which is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian interior minister, are posted at Gaza junctions. They are all armed, wear dark uniforms and appear orderly, in contrast to the members of other security forces, who stand beside them and occasionally look unkempt. Many argue that the deployment of the new security force, whose members are mostly from Hamas, brought Gaza to the threshold of civil war.

But Palestinian government spokesman Ghazi Hamed said that despite the tension, there will not be a civil war, because nobody wants one. He said Gaza has its full of other problems: an economic and political siege, unemployment, a paralyzed economy and workers who aren't receiving their salaries.

"None of us are receiving our salaries, not even Prime Minister Haniyeh or the government ministers," said Hamed.

He said the government had no choice but to organize a new security force to protect the residents from the armed gangs and militias that have sprung up over the years, which Hamed said the existing security forces were not able to control. "The residents are satisfied and support these forces," he said.

Fatah members said the public did not support the competing security force. At a meeting of Fatah activists who described themselves as leaders of its military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, one activist complained that the Fatah movement had not responded quickly and decisively enough to stop the deployment of the Hamas forces, which he views as illegal. "Don't get the mistaken impression that the public likes them," he said. "They're scared of them."

Nonetheless, the members of the various security forces appear to be getting along with each other. At one square on Al-Jala Boulevard, which leads from the Jabalya refugee camp to central Gaza, police officers from the security force that answers to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas were chatting with the Hamas-affiliated "operational forces."

"These aren't foreign youths who came from the moon," said a passerby. "They're all our people, members of the same families and the same neighborhoods, and they won't attack each other."

Hamed said support for Hamas is increasing daily, and that Hamas raised $250,000 for needy Gazans over the weekend. He also said Hamas would ultimately adapt its ideology to the current situation.

"With time we will suit our positions to reality and change," he said. "But under no circumstances will we do so under the pressure of a siege and only to get money. As we have already said, we will eat bread and hyssop [za'atar] and not give in."