Dr. Abdel Aziz Duaik, 57, Hamas' candidate for the position of PA parliament speaker was arrested many times in the past, and was incarcerated in an Israeli prison. Later, he was thrown out of the territories and sent to south Lebanon along with 400 other Hamas members by the Yizhak Rabin government in 1992. Today, he is planning on taking up the role as the PA parliament's first chairman from the ranks of Hamas.
Dr. Duaik, you came from prison and being kicked out to Lebanon, and became parliament speaker. How do you explain this?
"It's all from Allah says in the Koran that he never abandons his believers and especially the weak ones, and in time he makes them strong and gives them strength. That's my explanation. And just as pharaoh was strong, and God humiliated him and made him surrender, so too does God do the same to the Israeli government, to Bush, and Solana – who are the pharaoh of our days. Like his honor President (Vladimir) Putin said, the elections in the PA and our victory, are really a slap in the face to the West, to Bush, to Israel, and to Solana. It's all in the hands and authority of Allah – the one who supports his believers."
This morning there were reports of a general plan, economic and other, initiated by Israel with an aim to cause its collapse. What is your response?
"I say that the occupier has, according to treaties, obligations to the occupied. I also say that the money the Israelis say they don't want to transfer is not Israeli money, it is Palestinian money that Israel collects from the Palestinians, and which it is obligated to give to the Authority. If Israel preserves this stance, then the law will have to decide between us over this issue. This plan is another Israeli attempt to harm the democratic process and its outcomes, a process that was free, transparent, and which took place before the whole world's eyes. This is an attempt to harm us, but we are lions, not ants. It's not easy to harm us."
In Israel there are concerns that within a distance of a few minutes from Israeli communities, an extremist Taliban-like regime will rise. What is your message to the Israelis on this issue?
"There's no place for such declarations. I tell those who make them that they must understand that pressure and oppression won't bring a change in our stance and principles, and in the stances of the Palestinian people, but will cause a firmer grasp of these principles, and will increase public support in its leadership."
If you receive an offer to meet your counterpart, the Israeli Knesset chairman, would you take it up?
"If such an offer is made, I'll speak with the council members and organizations and institutions of the Palestinian people, and if there's a need, we'll ask the people for their stance. After the deliberations, I'll do what is appropriate and which suits our nation and its interests."
Many analysts claim that your appointment is a result of Hamas' desire to emphasize the moderate part of its leadership.
"I don't agree with that analysis at all. It's true that there is a difference in styles, there could also be a difference in the ways of thinking, and there are other considerations, but we are in the end one movement guided by the interest of the Palestinian people."
What kind of parliament will you lead? Will it be a parliament that will pass religious coercion laws? A coercion of Islamic character on the population?
"The people who pass laws are parliament members, each of which has their views and beliefs, and who is free to act according to them. It's true that the majority of parliament members are religious, but we won't coerce a thing on the population. We will go, inshallah (with Allah's help), in the way of Islam, and I'm sure that Islam and its principles will be a sources for respect and esteem, as our activities will express. We won't seek to convince people of our way through coercion, but rather through our ways of work and management. And as our model is the prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, it is from him that we seek our religion to take its example. This is how we aspire to be a good example and to influence people."
Do you think that at the end of the day, despite the international opposition to you, Hamas will manage to function in the parliament and the government?
"I have no doubt that we will succeed because we rely on Allah, and from Allah we draw our strength. Allah is the ruler and all deciding, and will lead us, inshallah, to succeed."