By Avi Issacharoff Haaretz 10 December 2006
Iran constitutes the Palestinians' strategic depth, Palestinian Prime
Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared on a visit to Tehran this weekend.
He also reiterated that Hamas would never recognize Israel or accept past
Speaking to thousands of students at the University of Tehran on Friday,
Haniyeh said: "The braggart of the world [the United States] and the
Zionists ... want us to accept the theft of Palestinian lands, stop the
jihad and the resistance and accept the agreements signed with the Zionist
enemy. We will never recognize the Zionist government. We will continue the
jihad until Jerusalem is liberated."
He also said that Iran provides the Palestinians with "strategic depth" in
their fight against Israel.
Then, last night, he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Following the meeting, Ahmadinejad said that Iran would stand shoulder to
shoulder with the Palestinians until Jerusalem was liberated and urged: "The
Palestinian government must not give in to international pressure; it must
continue to fight the Jewish state."
Haniyeh thanked Ahmadinejad for his support and replied: "My government has
no intention of recognizing the occupation government. We support the
Palestinian people's right to resistance [the standard Palestinian term for
terror attacks] and its right to cancel the cruel agreements that were
signed in the past with the occupation regime."
He added that his government would never accept the three conditions set by
the Quartet (the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia):
recognizing Israel, accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and
Khaled Meshal, who heads Hamas' political bureau, took a slightly different
tack over the weekend, saying that "if Israel and the U.S. want to end the
bloodshed in the region, they must accede to the Palestinians' demands."
Specifically, he said, Israel must withdraw to the pre-1967 armistice lines,
release all Palestinian prisoners, accept a "right of return" for
Palestinian refugees and dismantle all settlements. Otherwise, Hamas will
wage open war against it, he warned.
Meshal, who was speaking in a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus, said
that all the Palestinian factions agree that a Palestinian state must be
established based on the pre-1967 borders, and on this there can be no
compromise. However, he added, "our long-term goal is the liberation of
Palestine. Israel and the U.S. are deluding themselves if they think that we
are not capable of doing this."
Meanwhile, the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee
recommended yesterday that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas call
early elections, thereby further escalating the Fatah-Hamas confrontation.
The recommendation is not binding; it merely authorizes Abbas, whose Fatah
faction dominates the PLO, to call new elections if and when he so desires.
Senior PLO officials said Abbas would address the Palestinian public later
this week and announce his decision on whether to continue efforts to form a
unity government with Hamas.
However, he may not announce new elections in this speech: Many Palestinian
analysts view yesterday's decision as merely another stage in the ongoing
In Gaza yesterday, Fatah-affiliated members of the PA security services
demonstrated against the nonpayment of their salaries, resulting in
exchanges of fire between Hamas and Fatah gunmen that wounded one policeman.
The day before, thousands of Hamas supporters demonstrated in Gaza to urge
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh not to resign.
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