Pan-Arab daily interviews Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader on truce with Israel
BBC Monitoring Middle East
December 01, 2012
Ramadan Shallah, head of the militant Palestinian Islamic Jihad group looks on while attending an official meeting with Iran`s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (not pictured) in Tehran January 31, 2012. REUTERS
Report on Interview with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leader, Ramadan Shallah, by Jihan al-Husayni, in Cairo; date not given: “Shallah to Al-Hayat: The Gaza Agreement is a Truce For Truce; National Reconciliation Is Priority”
Ramadan Shallah, the Islamic Jihad secretary general, praised the truce agreement recently reached between the Palestinian resistance, represented by HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad, and Israel through Egyptian mediation efforts. He regarded this agreement as victory and achievement for the Palestinian people and resistance and as extraordinary failure for Israel. In an interview with Al-Hayat in Cairo, he said: “For the first time we have been able to impose something on Israel that it does not want, regarding this as a major development and achievement for the Palestinian people and resistance in the history of their struggle.
Discussing the truce negotiations, which he described as “a hard and complicated battle,” he said: “We set a goal and succeeded in achieving it.” The enemy could not defeat us in the battlefield, and so we did not allow him to defeat us in the negotiations.” He pointed out that the agreement was “a truce for a truce,” which means we will comply with the pacification as much as the Israeli enemy will.” He said: “During the talks, we and the brothers in HAMAS were wary not to turn the truce into a political agreement through which the enemy could achieve his political purposes by separating the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian body and throwing Gaza to Egypt.”
United Stand in the Negotiations
Asked about reports that the Islamic Jihad was more inflexible than HAMAS during the pacification negotiations, Shallah said: “This is not true; our stand and that of our brothers in HAMAS was similar and harmonious in terms of adherence to our demands and to displaying any flexibility.” He said that by spreading such claims, Israel attempts to drive a wedge and create rifts between the resistance wings. He added: “We were keen on stanching the flow of our people`s blood and, at the same time, serve our people`s interest, and bring them gains so that their blood will not be in vain. In short, all that concerned us was achieving an honourable and dignified pacification.”
Shallah said that “from the first moment of the negotiations, all that the Israelis wanted was a cease-fire only without discussing any other issues. It was as though there were two states and an army on the frontline and that what was required was for the guns to go silent at a specific time without a discussion of any of the issues that affected our people`s life.” He said: “We see certain issues as red lines that cannot be ignored or bypassed, such as the assassinations, Israeli incursions, the border buffer zone, freedom of movement for the people, fishermen`s activity in the sea, and the crossing points.” He added: “We stuck to the need that a pacification of the situation should address these issues.” He said: “Our Egyptian brothers told us that the Israelis vehemently refused listing those issues as clauses in the agreement, but we adhered to them and stressed that they should be addressed with a ceasefire as one package. And we did achieve that.”
Regarding the criticism that the Israeli officials levelled at Egyptian President Mursi that he had scant experience, Shallah said: “The experience that the Israelis missed in the incumbent Egyptian president is the one that they found in the past, namely the experience of serving Israel and its interests. President Mursi does not have experience in serving Israel, but has high experience in backing the helpless Palestinian people and the right to defend themselves.”
Shallah pointed out that Egypt came under big pressure during its mediation efforts and sponsorship of the truce agreement. He said that Egypt was targeted and put to the test, noting that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wanted to deal quick strikes at Gaza in order to rob Egypt of the opportunity to devise a new policy towards the Palestinian people, particularly those in the Gaza Strip. He said that Netanyahu wanted to turn Gaza into a burden for Egypt and a ball of fire to intimidate the Egyptian people in order to avoid approaching the Palestinian iss ue.
Asked if the elections were the motive behind the Israeli war on Gaza, Shallah said: “This motive is always in the Israeli thinking, particularly the thinking of the right-wing forces that currently control the decision-making process in Israel. For them, Palestinian blood is a winning card in the elections. However, the latest war proved to them that Palestinian blood will be a losing card in the elections. He voiced his hope that right-wing leaders will not assume power in Israel again.”
Shallah said: “When Israel started the war, it had several goals in mind, but it misread the Gaza Strip and the resistance.” He added: “The Israelis may have surprised the world by killing a leading figure of the status of Ahmad al-Ja`bari, but we surprised them by retaliating for his assassination with available resources and performance in the battlefield.” He emphasized that “Israel started the war.” He added: “We were not keen on escalating the situation, but the war was imposed on us and we accepted the challenge, fighting the war to defend our people.”
Shallah opined that this battle exposed the Israeli theory of deterrence and security. He said: “Israel entertained many illusions,” saying that Israel “emerged from this battle with further deterioration in its deterrence power.” He said: “As Palestinian rockets reached the heart of Tel Aviv, where is the Israeli deterrence?” What has remained of it?” Israel said it wanted to destroy the Palestinian resistance rockets and their military infrastructure, stressing that “this goal was not achieved because the resistance continued to fire rockets at Israel until the last moments, which shows that Israel achieved none of its goals.”
Shallah said that three million Israelis took to shelters during the latest war, adding: “More than half of the Israeli population took to the shelters as a result of the resistance rockets.” He said that in the past, only about one million Israelis would take to the shelters, particularly those living in the southern towns. He said that this is a strong indication of the deterioration of Israel`s deterrence power. He said: “This is a victory and a major achievement by the resistance on moral, military, and material levels.” He said it is highly likely that this war will have great effect on augmenting and developing the resistance power in the future. He said: “I am sure that in the future the resistance will be more powerful and the Gaza Strip will have more immunity.” He said the sole guarantee of pacification is the power of the resistance and its deterrence capability, stressing that pacification hinges on Israel`s conduct.
Discussing the US position and whether the delay in signing he truce was related to the visit to the region by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Shallah said: “This issue does not concern me.” He said there are complications and paradoxes in the US stand. He added: “We are sure that this war would not have started were it not for a US green light.” He said that “one of Netanyahu`s political objectives from his war was to learn the direction of the compass of Obama`s new administration, particularly in light of Netanyahu`s bet on the success of the Republican candidate in the US presidential elections.” He added: “These considerations that the Americans understand did not prevent Clinton from coming to the region to emphasize her absolute support for Israel and for its right to defend itself against a helpless people facing massacres and crimes against humanity committed by Israel.”
In reply to a question on the absence of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas from the battle and the truce agreement, Shallah said: “Abu-Mazin`s absence was imposed by the circumstances of the battle. Gaza was targeted and the direct party concerned with the negotiations to stop the Israeli aggression was the resistance that led the battle.” He said: “There was no objection to Abu-Mazin`s visit to Gaza if there was an opportunit y. In fact, we would have welcomed his visit, because we have fears that the separation and division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank might be consolidated and become permanent.” He added: “Israel seeks to reinforce the idea that the Gaza Strip is a separate and independent entity from the rest of the Palestinian body. It seeks to throw Gaza into Egypt`s lap.”
We Proposed Abu-Mazin`s Participation
Shallah said: “We were aware of this issue [need for Fatah`s participation in the truce talks]. He revealed that “he proposed participation in the truce talks by the Palestinian [National] Authority or Fatah” so that the truce agreement would involve all Palestinians to rob Israel of the opportunity of taking on one party and excluding the other.” He added: “To make up for Abu-Mazin`s absence, we kept in touch with him, and, perhaps, our brothers in HAMAS also kept in touch with him. We put him in the picture, and he was keen on pacification, and gave his blessing to the truce agreement.”
Discussing Egypt`s efforts to resume the reconciliation talks [between HAMAS and Fatah], Shallah said: “There was no need to shed so much Palestinian blood to be convinced of the need for ending the division and uniting the Palestinian people. Now that the war on Gaza is over, putting the Palestinian house in order must be one of the top priorities of all parties in the Palestinian arena, primarily Abu-Mazin and HAMAS, being the two key parties plagued by divisions.” He said that he proposed to the Egyptians the idea of holding a tripartite meeting, and they told me that “they will convey this proposal to the parties concerned.” He said: “The ball is now in the PNA`s court, primarily in Abu-Mazin`s court, to take the initiative.” He said there is a need “to seize this opportunity as quickly as possible to discuss all details of the domestic file.” He added: “Let us agree if only on a general framework and a road map in our domestic relations to put the Palestinian train back on track.”
Asked about the strong calls by certain Palestinian forces, primarily HAMAS, on Abu-Mazin to stop the security coordination [with Israel], Shallah said: “[Stopping] security coordination is a goal, in fact, it is a core issue. We have never stopped calling on brother Abu-Mazin and the PNA to stop this security coordination.” He wondered “if Abu-Mazin is in a position to stop security coordination.”
He urged the PNA “to question the usefulness of continuing the security coordination since the settlement process has failed.” He said: “Israel is doing what it wants in the West Bank, which is now completely controlled by Israel. The land is being confiscated and settlement construction does not stop while Jerusalem is being Judaized.” He said: “The PNA has become a hostage of an agreement that no longer exists; it has become an umbrella giving legitimacy to all the violations and crimes that Israel is committing against our people and holy places. The [Oslo] agreement has become a burden for Abu-Mazin, for Fatah, for the Palestinian people, and on the entirety of the Palestinian issue.” He said that getting out of this impasse lies in agreement on a new comprehensive strategy, not through measures in which the PNA would seek to patch up its relationship with Israel or mend its relationship with Gaza.
The Plan for Setting up a State Is Over
Shallah said: “The Palestinian national plan for creating a Palestinian state along the 5 June 1967 border is over because Israel does not recognize such a state.” He said there is a need for an initiative in another direction. There is a need to put the Palestinian house in order, review the previous approach, and adopt a new comprehensive strategy that takes into account regional developments, the outcome of the latest confrontation with Israel from Gaza, as well as the Palestinian people`s capabilities and resources.
Shallah said: “When Israel wages war against HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad, the question is whether this is Israel that the Arab re gimes fear. He pointed out that Israel has thus equated its weight with that of organizations, not states.” He said: “This confrontation should bring about a turnaround in Palestinian political thinking,” stressing that “what is required now is to work out a national framework bringing together all forces and forming a Palestinian leadership that undertakes the struggle to restore the land and rights.”
Asked about his stance on the Palestinian efforts to obtain a status of a non-member state at the United Nations, Shallah said: “Putting the Palestinian house in order is more appropriate than seeking this status at the United Nations.” He said that the approach to the United Nations is an attempt to fill the vacuum in which the PNA lives after the settlement process reached a dead-end. He said that Israel wants to foil Abu-Mazin`s bid even though it realizes that this step does not pose a challenge but is just a move to vex Israel to resume the negotiations. He expressed his surprise at this step, saying: “What is the Palestinian people`s interest in taking such a step? Does their interest lie in looking for means to return the to negotiations that achieved nothing for them? What is the state that Abu-Mazin calls for its recognition at the United Nations? What state are they talking about while a part of it is separate and is not under the PNA`s control?”
Shallah said that the element of time is not in the interest of the PNA given the current regional developments and what is going on in the Palestinian arena. He stressed that there is only one path for the PNA to follow. The PNA should approach all Palestinian forces to sit at the negotiating table to formulate a new strategy on new basis, primarily the option of resistance, which proved its usefulness and power in deterring the aggression during the latest war on Gaza.
Discussing reports on establishing a free zone on the border with Egypt, which raises fears of perpetuating the division, Shallah said: “A solution lies in ending the Israeli blockade. As for the other plans, the fears are real and serious, because Israel wants to deal with Gaza as a separate entity to burden HAMAS with this responsibility and Egypt with the responsibility of supplying Gaza with its daily needs. Thus Israel could lift its hands off Gaza and separate it from Palestine. We will not accept this because it is dangerous for our people and their cause. He said that Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza Strip but it still besieges it by land, sea, and air.
Shallah said that the ceiling that Israel may accept for Gaza is what is contained in the Oslo accords, namely freedom of the people in the land because the Oslo accords gave Palestinian nothing in terms of sovereignty in the sky. Israeli drones do not leave Gaza airspace. They photograph everything and sometimes commit assassinations. Therefore the Gaza Strip is still under Israeli sovereignty and Israel has the upper hand. In short, Gaza is still a large prison controlled by Israel.
Resettlement in Sinai
In reply to a question on reports in Egyptian circles on a scenario envisioning resettling the Palestinian refugees in Sinai, Shallah said: “Former President Jamal Abd-al-Nasir proposed resettling the Palestinian refugees in Sinai, but the Palestinian people rejected the proposal. We reject resettlement anywhere other than Palestine. We do not accept any substitute homeland. As for the fears being raised regarding what is happening in Sinai and wrongly holding Gaza responsible for what is happening there, this is regrettable. What is currently happening in Sinai is an Egyptian problem with which the Palestinians have nothing to do. Israel returned Sinai to Egypt according to Israeli conditions that robbed Egypt of Sinai`s strategic significance and importance. He pointed out that Israel set conditions that Sinai should remain demilitarized. He said: “How could anyone establish a community that is unprotected?”
Shallah said: “The Gaza Strip is now a human and cultural barrier that protects Egypt from Israeli threats. It is a buffer zone facing Israel. For those who argue that what is happening in Gaza could lead to Israeli reoccupation of Sinai, I would say if Israel succeeds in occupying the Gaza Strip, they can then talk of reoccupation of Sinai.” He pointed out that Israel was unable to overrun the town of Bayt Hanun in a ground battle. He stressed that threats to Gaza constitute threats to Egypt`s national security.
Shallah said: “Israel should understand that the Camp David accords are threatened and liable to abrogation until Egypt restores its sovereignty and deploys its forces in Sinai according to new conditions. Israel should sense that Egypt`s has regained its weight on the region`s political map because Egypt is the only country capable of fettering Israel`s hands.”
Discussing accusation of the Palestinian resistance by some that the war in Gaza is an Iranian interest aimed at diverting attention from Syria, Shallah said: “There is no connection between what is happening in Gaza and what is happening in Syria. This is evident in the fact that 22 months have passed since the Syrian crisis erupted. He said Israel started the war by assassinating Ahmad al-Ja`bari. The Iranian weapons were given to us to support helpless people facing aggression bordering on annihilation, not to start war. He said: “We did not stop appealing to the Arab countries and the world to supply us with defence means, but no one responded. When Iran responds to our appeals, no one has the right to blame us or incriminate Iran. The blame must be put on those who did not support us, not those who supported us. We should thank the Iranians for supporting us. Those who did nothing left the Palestinian people to be slaughtered without doing anything for them.” He said: “We need all possible forms of aid and support to reinforce our steadfastness and capabilities of defending our people.”
Shallah called on everyone to abstain from shuffling the cards, stressing that Palestine is above all axes and camps regardless of their identity. He said: “We distance our people from any domestic disputes in any Arab or regional country because Palestine alone is the compass that directs everyone, and everyone should rally around it.”
Source: Al-Hayat website, London, in Arabic 28 Nov 12
© 2012 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Palestinian sources say Islamic Jihad leaders leave Syria for Iran
BBC Monitoring Middle East
July 22, 2012
Iran`s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) speaks with Ramadan Shallah, head of the militant Palestinian Islamic Jihad group during an official meeting in Tehran January 31, 2012. REUTERS
Report by Kifah Zabun in Ramallah: Sources to Al-Sharq al-Awsat: Islamic Jihad Leadership Left Damascus for Teheran Without Severing Their Ties. It Prefers To Work in a Place Other Than Syria at Present
Informed Palestinian sources told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the leadership of the Islamic Jihad movement has practically left Syria without ending its presence there, which lasted for long years, and without severing its ties with the Syrian regime, with which it continues to maintain good relations.
According to the sources Ziyad Nakhalah, deputy secretary general of the Islamic Jihad, has been in Iran for weeks and has not gone for Syria except once 10 days ago to transport the corpse of Salim Hamadah, member of the Political Bureau of the Islamic Jihad, to Lebanon where he was buried in Sidon after he died in Syria of a serious illness.
According to the sources, this is also the case with Ramadan Shallah, secretary general of the Islamic Jihad, who is moving between the two countries and is carrying out most of his work in Iran. The Islamic Jihad leaders leave Syria and return to it with much freedom, contrary to the case with HAMAS leadership whose ties with the Syrian regime have exacerbated due to the implicit criticism of the regime by its leaders and then the announcement of sacked Prime Minister Isma`il Haniyah of his support for the Syrian people in Al-Azhar.
An official source of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza denied that the movement`s officials have left Syria. The source told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that “the movement cannot in these difficult circumstances be anywhere expect with its brothers in Syria.” The source added that “the movement is carrying out relief programmes for the Palestinian refugees in Syria.” The source said that some officials have left Syria within the framework of work abroad and their departure is not for good.
The source said that “the relationship of the Islamic Jihad with the Syrians is excellent, contrary to HAMAS, but they prefer to stay outside Syria.” The Islamic Jihad is maintaining its relations with the Syrian regime and also with the Iranian regime, and has refrained from making any criticism to the Syrian regime and also refrained from supporting the Syrian revolution, which is different from its stand towards the other Egyptian, Tunisian, and Libyan revolutions.
The sources emphasized that the departure of Islamic Jihad leaders to Iran does not mean at all a change in the stand towards Syria; however, the field and political circumstances in Damascus forced the Islamic Jihad leaders to work from another area.
Syria constitutes a strong supporter for the Islamic Jihad and it hosted it for a long time, the same as the case with HAMAS; however, HAMAS`s link to the project of the Muslim Brotherhood, which stand as an arch enemy of Syria, has expedited the divorce between the regime of Bashar al-Asad and HAMAS after the latter refused to openly support him at the beginning and then it implicitly adopted a biased stand towards the Syrian revolution. Syria also constitutes an important passageway for the Islamic Jihad leaders and elements who travel from Gaza to Teheran for different reasons, political and logistical.
According to the sources, dozens of civilians and military individuals from Gaza are currently stranded in Syria after participation in conferences and other courses in Iran.
A Palestinian women delegation affiliated with the Islamic Jihad attended a conference on women and the Islamic awakening in Iran this month, which concluded a few days ago and in which women from 80 countries took part and was attended by about 1,500 women. Dozens others participated in various courses in July and June and all are now stranded in Syria.
According to the sources, “the Palestinian women delegation is evidence on the strength of relations between the Islamic Jihad and Iran, since it was a delegation for the Islamic Jihad par excellence that included the liberated former prisoner Hana Shalabi and others.” The two delegations left Iran for Syria on their way for Egypt and t hen for Gaza, to which they were supposed to arrive two days ago. But due to the deteriorating security conditions in Syria, they were informed that the airports and crossings are closed at present and that they have to wait.
However, an Islamic Jihad source in Gaza denied that a women delegation is stranded in Egypt, and said that it is due to return at any moment.
Source: Al-Sharq al-Awsat website, London, in Arabic 21 Jul 12
© 2012 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.