JEDDAH, 15 March 2006 — Hamas Politburo chief Khaled Meshaal outlined a number of points about the purpose of the Hamas delegation's visit to Saudi Arabia, its main priorities as a government and where it stands on various issues during a press conference at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Conference here yesterday.
In the first official contact between Hamas and the OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the organization, welcomed Meshaal and his delegation and expressed the OIC's support and respect for the results of a democratic election in Palestine that brought Hamas to power.
"We heard in detail about Hamas' stand on different issues and we are happy that they are seeking a political partnership for all Palestinian parties and we are waiting for the developments in forming a government," said Ihsanoglu. "With its win, Hamas begins a new stage in the development of the Palestinian issue. We assure that Hamas will deal with all national and international requirements in a practical and logical way springing from its concern for national interests and for achieving the legitimate goals of the Palestinian people of establishing their country, retrieving their occupied lands, solving the problem of the refugees and maintaining Jerusalem's historical identity."
Hamas is proud of the Palestinian democratic experience and, "we will work at bolstering it to give a civilized, respected message to the world. At the same time, we highly appreciate the Arab and Muslim stands expressing respect for the Palestinians' will," said Meshaal.
Topping the list of Hamas priorities, said Meshaal, is organizing the Palestinian house quickly and forming a government that is a national partnership, in reference to bringing into the fold all sides under the Palestinian political tent, including those ousted as a result of the elections in January.
"I can tell you with all confidence that Hamas wants to be partners with everyone, so if you see a stand against partnering, that is the right of that party but not our wish. Our wish is to partner with everyone and we respect everyone because the Palestinian issue needs the efforts of all," said Meshaal.
The second priority for Hamas, he said, is providing the economic and financial support to the Palestinian people who suffer under Israeli occupation and aggression and live in harsh conditions.
"Saudi Arabia has a history of supporting Palestinians and we are happy to be at the OIC, the gateway to the rest of the Islamic world, especially that the OIC was established because of Palestinian issue. We look for real support in response to all the threats of punishment and boycotting," he said in reference to recent calls by the US and Europe to use financial assistance as a carrot or a stick to urge Hamas to officially recognize the state of Israel's right to exist.
The third priority is that Hamas, from its new position, seeks agreement after consultation with the Arab and Muslim countries.
"The political stance is a Palestinian, Arab and Muslim stance and we seek to be unified to confront the Zionist pompousness because the problem is not in the Palestinians or Arabs and Muslims stance," said Meshaal. "There has always been initiatives from our side. The problem is Israel which refuses all initiatives and acts to implement the disengagement plan from one side that aims at dissolving the Palestinian issue and forcing an Israeli solution that eliminates all Palestinian rights, especially to Jerusalem."
Meshaal also said that Hamas is also concerned with rebuilding Palestinian Liberation Organization to be the inclusive body and reference for all Palestinians inside and outside. He also implored all Arabs and Muslims to care about the grievances of the Palestinian people, especially regarding Jerusalem and the prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails. "There are 9,000 men and women prisoners suffering in the occupier's prisons in terrible conditions, illegally and without due process and we hope that the media focus on this," he said.
Answering a question by Arab News on the threats made by Israeli officials to assassinate Hamas leaderships and on Hamas being considered a terrorist organization by some countries, Meshaal said that every Palestinian inside and outside the country are subject to Israeli terrorism that has killed thousands of Palestinians young, old and women. "Therefore, Ismail Haniyeh and others in Hamas and outside Hamas are subject to threats, but that is our fate."
As an example, he said that during their meeting with the OIC secretary-general they received news that Israeli soldiers stormed a prison in Jericho to try to kill Ahmed Saadat. "There is Israeli terrorism everyday and we warn Israel of the consequences of these acts and condemn any attack on our people who can only defend ourselves as is our right."
As for being considered a terrorist organization, he said that none of the Arab and Muslim countries accepts this unjust categorization of Hamas, which is mainly an American categorization. "Whoever considers Hamas a terrorist organization is categorizing the whole Palestinian people as terrorists because they chose Hamas and the US has put itself in a dilemma."
Answering a question on the economic support, Meshaal explained that the Palestinian budget is 2 billion and they have been denied, as punishment for coming to power, 1.75 billion of it, which is how much they need and hope that the OIC, and the different Arab and Muslim countries and the donating countries will fulfill their obligations.
On the question of recognizing Israel, Meshaal said: "There will be no recognition of an illegal occupation, the enemy has to recognize our rights first."
And finally, regarding having women in the new Cabinet, he said: "The Palestinian woman is a partner in the struggle and the resistance. You will see women faces in the new Cabinet from Hamas and from outside Hamas." He added that Hamas does not discriminate between men and women in rights or between Muslims and Christians.