His brother, Jebril Rajoub, is a leading Fatah candidate representing the Future List, headed by imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan al-Barghuthi. The two will compete against each other in the upcoming Palestinian elections.
Aljazeera.net’s correspondent in Palestine, Khalid Amayreh, spoke with Nayef Rajoub at his home in Dura. The following are excerpts of the interview.
Aljazeera.net: Why did Hamas decide to participate in the legislative elections?
Nayef Rajoub: We decided to take part in the elections in order to try to put an end to the present anarchy, chaos and lawlessness permeating throughout the country.
You know that our society has been seriously inflicted with all sorts of corruption: There is political corruption, there is financial corruption, there is administrative corruption, and there is moral corruption as well.
We are more or less suffering a moral crisis. Hence, we will do our best to rectify this situation in co-operation and co-ordination with all well-meaning Palestinians, including our brothers in Fatah.
If Hamas wins a large number of seats in parliament, would the movement join the next Palestinian government?
This depends on the size of our representation in the legislative council. But in principle, I can tell you that there is nothing preventing us from joining the government.
But Israel and the US would not agree to deal with a Palestinian government in which Hamas is represented.
Then why does the American government deal with the Lebanese government although Hizb Allah is part of that government?
How about Israel?
Well, if the next Palestinian government is going to be answerable to Israel, then Israel will have the final say. But if the government is responsible to the Palestinian people, then Israel has no right to interfere in our internal affairs.
What are your estimates regarding the prospects of joining the government?
I would say it is more likely that we won’t join the government.
How many seats do you think Hamas will win in the forthcoming elections?
We will probably receive from 45 to 50 seats, and Fatah is likely to win between 35-40, and that would be very good for them.
But opinion polls give Fatah many more seats.
These polls are not really scientific and are conducted by people with a specific political agenda. Moreover, many of the polls are often manipulated for political reasons.
We’ve seen how the polls gave Fatah a large chunk of votes in Nablus, only to see the Hamas list win 13 out of 15 seats in the recent [local] elections there.
Do you expect Israel to impose further restrictions on Hamas MPs after the elections?
When we get to the parliament, we will be representing the Palestinian people, not just Hamas. But, yes, we expect Israel to keep up its repressive measures against us. Israel might even resort to arresting Islamic lawmakers in order to paralyse the council.
And what would be the implication of this?
The implication is very clear, namely that Israel is an enemy of Palestinian democracy and that true democracy and the Israeli occupation can’t really coexist since one is the antithesis of the other.
Does Hamas aspire to normalise relations with the European Union?
Hamas has no interest in provoking or alienating any country. We have nothing against Europe as a matter of principle. But we would like to see the EU adopt a more even-handed and honest approach to the enduring Palestinian plight.
What do you mean by “even-handed approach”?
The EU has kept silent while Israel is continuing to build this evil wall in the depth of the West Bank, steal more and more of our land, build more settlements and violate our most basic human rights.
This is in addition to the daily acts of murder of Palestinians by trigger-happy Israeli soldiers.
Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, said recently the EU might sever aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas joined the government.
Well, which is more paramount, our freedom or EU money?
Will Hamas rely more on its political programme and platform or the quality of its candidates?
Both, since a successful platform requires dedicated people to put into effect. And dedication, to be effective, also requires meticulous planning leading to the realisation of clear goals.
Will Hamas seek to improve relations with neighbouring Arab and Muslim countries?
This is an essential part of our platform. We do believe that the Palestinian issue is not and shouldn’t be an exclusively Palestinian issue. After all, Palestine and al-Masjid al-Aqsa (al-Aqsa mosque) are important for Muslims as well.
Will Hamas ever contemplate recognising Israel?
Will Israel ever contemplate recognising Palestine?
But Hamas is dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
Isn’t Israel also dedicated to Palestine’s destruction? Who is occupying whose land? Who is tormenting and brutalising the other? Who has expelled millions of innocent people from their ancestral land, Hamas or Israel?
Will Hamas demand the implementation of the Sharia (Islamic law)?
The implementation of the Sharia is not a priority at this juncture. This doesn’t mean, however, that we will not seek to amend some of the existing laws in order to make them more even-handed.
Do you think that there is a real possibility for the creation of a truly viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital?
This possibility is now very precarious. I think it is either dead or dying.
So what is the alternative?
The alternative is to end the occupation.
How do you view Fatah?
They are our brothers; we will seek to co-operate with them for the common good of the Palestinian people.
Do you foresee yourself and your brother, Jebril Rajoub (former chief of the Preventive Security Force), sitting side by side in parliament?
It could be, everything is possible.