Hamas chief blames Israel-US for Palestinian impasse

AMMAN  – Hamas supremo Khaled Mishaal said efforts to end the bitter feud with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were deadlocked because of Israeli and US meddling, and insisted his men would stay in control of Gaza.

And he warned in an interview with AFP that despite renewed efforts to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians, resistance remained the only option for Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

“Mediation efforts are at an impasse because they [Abbas’ Fateh faction] have shut all the doors and rejected Palestinian and other Arab mediation, including initiatives by some Fateh officials,” Mishaal said in a telephone interview from Syria.

“Israeli and American interference is responsible for blocking the reconciliation,” he said.

Fierce rivalry between Hamas and Fateh boiled over into deadly fighting which saw the Islamist movement seize control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June, effectively splitting the Palestinians into two separate entities.

Abbas sacked the Hamas-led government in the wake of the takeover and has since repeatedly said he is steadfastly opposed to any dialogue with Hamas until it returns the Gaza Strip to his authority.

But Mishaal said: “We have not taken Gaza in order to give it back to them… We have defended our legitimacy against ‘warlords’ who were preparing a coup with the help of the Americans and the Israelis.”

Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, now effectively sealed off from the outside world by Israel which – like the West – regards Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Earlier this month Mishaal, who lives in exile in Damascus, travelled to Sanaa seeking Yemeni mediation in the standoff with Fateh but so far all Arab efforts to resolve the divide have come to nothing.

“Israel threatens the Palestinian Authority president to prevent a dialogue with Hamas… and the US puts pressure on all parties in the region to prevent any meeting between Hamas and Fateh,” he said.

“Dialogue is the only solution to resolve the internal Palestinian crisis.” But he said that any dialogue should cover rebuilding Palestinian security services and placing them under a national government that would govern in both Gaza and the West Bank, where Abbas has his power base.

Mishaal also blamed some leaders within Abbas’ Palestinian Authority of preferring to revive stalled peace negotiations with Israel than opening dialogue with Hamas.

“Those who are counting on American and Israeli support and who are rushing to talk to the Israelis… will discover that their bets are only illusions,” Mishaal said.

Talks between Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders have been stepped up since Abbas sacked Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and his government in the aftermath of the seizure of Gaza on June 15.

Abbas has since met Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert twice and both sides agreed to hold more meetings ahead of plans by US President George W. Bush to convene an international Middle East conference later this year.

“As long as Israel does not put an end to its occupation and its settlements and as long as it does not recognise Palestinian rights, our policy of resistance will be the only option,” Mishaal said.

The Hamas political supremo – who escaped an attempt by Mossad agents on his life in Amman in 1997 – also said he did not expect any change in US policy should a Democrat win the 2008 presidential election.

“American bias for Israel never changes,” he said.

He also described as “an illusion” reports that Abbas is mulling changes to Palestinian law that would effectively exclude Hamas from future elections after it initially swept to power in a January 2006 vote.

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