Interview with Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar

By Christoph Schult

Mahmoud al-Zahar, foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority’s Hamas-led government, says a big majority of Hamas supports the struggle against Israel despite recent conciliatory comments from Hamas officials about a possible indirect recognition of Israel and an end to violence. Mahmoud al-Zahar says a big majority of militant group Hamas backs continued resistance against Israel, which he likens to the Nazis occupying France in World War II.

SPIEGEL: Do you really want to let the talks with President Abbas about a national unity government fail?

ZAHAR: We have accepted the paper on the establishment of a national unity government. It was Abbas’ Fatah Party that first agreed to it and then changed its mind a few days later. We are ready to establish a provisional Palestinian state in the 1967 borders and to call for a ceasefire.

SPIEGEL: But you reject a two state solution?

ZAHAR: We will never recognize Israel. The Zionists have occupied our land like the Nazis did with France during the Second World War. Israel is a foreign element in the Middle East. Why don’t the Jews establish their state in Europe?

SPIEGEL: Your Deputy Prime Minister, Nasser al-Shaer, views that differently. He thinks that an indirect recognition of Israel, as the Saudi-Arabian initiative of 2002 suggests, is possible.

ZAHAR: This is his personal opinion and not the position of the government.

SPIEGEL: Criticism even comes from the government spokesman. Ghazi Hamad questions the violent "resistance" against Israel.

ZAHAR: In this point, the spokesman of the government does not represent the government.

SPIEGEL: Is there an internal struggle within Hamas?

ZAHAR: There are different opinions. But the big majority supports the resistance. The kidnapping of the Israeli soldier was the only way to release our brothers and sisters who are detained in Israel.

SPIEGEL: Western mediators say Israel would have been ready for an exchange deal. But Iran is said to have paid Hamas $50 million in order to torpedo the deal.

ZAHAR: This is Zionist propaganda. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert is the one who is preventing a deal. I call on the family of the kidnapped soldier to pressure their government to do everything possible to release their son.

© Der Spiegel, 23 October. 2006 

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