“No dialogue between Israel and Hamas”
Dr. Aziz Dweik is the speaker of the Palestinian parliament. He was arrested by Israel in 2006 for being a member of Hamas.
RT: Thank you so much for joining us here on RT. In January the Palestinian presidential elections will be held, do you intend to stand?
Dr Aziz Dweik: For me, personally, I have not decided anything yet. I hope everything will be ok. If I can reunite the Palestinians with the efforts of others, like Egyptians and other Arabs and Palestinian leaders, then I will define for myself a new course of action.
RT: President Mahmoud Abbas is from Fatah, you are from Hamas. What would it mean for the Palestinian people to have, potentially, a new president who comes from Hamas?
A.D.: We are living in some kind of democracy which I prefer to promote to the end. And this kind of promotion means, for me, that we have to go with democracy and democratic process to the end and let people choose for themselves. And this is good. But everything depends on how the international community will receive the results of the elections. And I don't like the way the western countries received the results of the democratic processes in Palestine in the last election in 2006.
RT: The West Bank is a Fatah stronghold, you come from Hamas. Does this put you under some kind of pressure from them?
A.D.: The division between the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza happened while I was in prison. I was very sorry for what happened because it hurts to see so many people who are living under occupation, divided among themselves. I could do nothing at that time, but now I'm working very hard in order to reunite the people
RT: When you walk the streets of Ramallah, is there risk that you will be targeted or attacked by the Fatah?
A.D.: I don't think so because I'm calling for unity of the people and that would be no reward for a man who’s calling for peace and unity.
RT: Is there a risk you'll be picked up by the Israelis?
A.D.: Yes. This is all the time there. It did happen before. The Israelis surrounded my home here, in Rammalah, and they picked me up and put me in jail for three years.
RT: You spent four years in total in Israeli prisons for being, as you say, the speaker of parliament. How can this be justified as being legal?
A.D.: All international lawyers say this is illegal. It did not happen in the history of mankind that the speaker of a Parliament and one-third of the members of the Parliament were arrested at once in a move which represented really crazy actions by the Israelis against the people who are leaving under occupation. That’s without respecting our natural rights or respecting our parliamentarian immunity or anything like that.
RT: As the speaker of Parliament, how do you organize the Parliament? How can it function with some of its members in the West Bank and others in Gaza?
A.D.: Actually, before my imprisonment there was a video-conference connecting one third of the Parliament in Gaza and two thirds in the West Bank. This is almost the percentages of the number of MPs in the West Bank and the number of MPs in Gaza. We used to use the video-conference; it was on-air all the time. This is how we were contacting each other and conducting our work. Right now the parliament building has been bombarded by the Israelis. Since then and until now, there was no real meeting of the parliamentarians except for telephone calls.
RT: Can you travel to Gaza?
A.D.: So far, I haven't tried, but I don't think that the Israelis will allow me to go outside – either to Gaza or to Jordan or to any other country.
RT: So within this context, how does the leadership operate?
A.D.: I'm talking about the parliament. This is a very difficult situation. Some of the parliamentarians can move here and there and the rest – especially the Islamists – had no access to anywhere outside the occupied territories. And we have no access to each other, especially between the West Bank and Gaza, except by telephone calls.
RT: The feeling on the ground is that Gaza has increasingly become a Hamas state and the West Bank – a Fatah state. What do you think?
A.D.: I don't think so. I believe from the depth of my heart that our people are very much eager to again unite. You can not speak about very small entities representing different entities, they are very small entities. We are speaking about 45 square kilometers in Gaza and 5,000 square kilometers in the West Bank.
RT: Do you think a future Palestinian state is viable?
A.D.: Under the present continuation of Israeli expansion of settlements things will become very difficult.
RT: The Hamas is calling for the creation of a Palestinian state in all of Palestine. Following what has been said, it seems unrealistic. So why is it still on the table?
A.D.: Actually, you are talking about something which is part of history. And it was written a long time ago. What I heard not long before my release from prison was that Hamas accepted a Palestinian state with full sovereignty and with Jerusalem as its capital. And this is exactly what Mahmud Abbas is calling for: establishing a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. So the differences are very minimal.
RT: Do you think it will change when they take away the call for the destruction of Israel and include recognition of the Jewish state?
A.D.: I don't think that the issue of the charter is an issue within the Palestinian community. Maybe it is something that needs re-reading.
RT: Is there any dialogue between Hamas and Israel?
A.D.: As long as I know, no.
RT: Do you think Israel will ever recognize Hamas?
A.D.: I don't see things in the coming future, may be in the remote future this could be, if things change on the ground. But I don't see that this moment.
RT: Do you see Hamas remaining in power in Gaza?
A.D.: Whenever there is a Palestinian faction demanding Palestinian rights and continuing to do so, this faction will continue to be alive, exactly like the people of Palestine.
RT: Do people in Gaza still support Hamas?
A.D.: Things depend on the polls and the results of the elections. At that moment we will know. But right now I will guess, you will guess, everybody will guess. I don’t know for sure what’s going to happen.
RT: Is it true that weapons are being smuggled into Gaza through tunnels.
A.D.: I haven’t been to Gaza in the last 30 years, maybe more. So I don’t know what’s going on there. I’m watching TV news, as you do, so I don’t know what’s going on there.
RT: There was a shootout in Gaza a few days ago between Al-Qaeda and Hamas. Are other militant groups becoming stronger and stronger in the Gaza Strip?
A.D.: As long as there is no justice coming, and there is no satisfaction in people’s hearts, violence will continue in this area of the world and peace, real peace, will be remote. So this is why we are calling for real peace, comprehensive peace coming to the area. Right now what I’m seeing is the total denial by Israel of Palestinian rights. This kind of denial will never bring peace to the area.
RT: Do you know where the kidnapped Israeli soldier – Gilad Shalit – is?
A.D.: The Israelis asked this question many times. I have no idea. I don’t know what’s going on in Gaza. I’m just watching news, as you do.
RT: Do you think there can be a prisoner exchange?
A.D.: I hope so.
RT: Thank you very much for joining us.
A.D.: Thank you.