Updated: Dec 20, 2020
073.Document aims to heal divisions within Palestinian movement and ease peace process but Netanhayu says: ‘Hamas is attempting to fool the world’
Last May Hamas unveiled a "new" political program softening its stance on Israel by accepting the idea of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel in the six-day war of 1967.
The new document states the Islamist movement it is not seeking war with the Jewish people – only with Zionism that drives the occupation of Palestine.
The new document also insists that Hamas is a not a revolutionary force that seeks to intervene in other countries, a commitment that is likely to be welcomed by other states such as Egypt.
The policy platform was announced by the head of the movement’s political bureau, Khaled Meshal, at a press conference in Doha. “Hamas advocates the liberation of all of Palestine but is ready to support the state on 1967 borders without recognizing Israel or ceding any rights,” he said.
The move came just days before a White House meeting between Donald Trump and Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah movement remains at odds with Hamas.
But according to diplomatic sources, the new document has been in preparation for years and has been the subject of intense debate between the various Hamas factions in Gaza, in exile and in prison. Hamas in 2017: The document in full.
Although it does not explicitly supplant the previous charter of the founding fathers, seen by many as racist, it is being described by those seeking to help Hamas toward a more peaceful path as the contemporary summary of Hamas beliefs and aims.
Israel rejected the document before its full publication, with a spokesman for the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, saying: “Hamas is attempting to fool the world, but it will not succeed.”
Ed Royce, the chair of the House foreign relations committee, said: “Until Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist, its words are meaningless. I will see to it that Hamas remains designated a terrorist organisation as long as it continues to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, remains an Iranian proxy, and engages in other acts that threaten the US and Israel.”
But some influential diplomatic figures will seek to persuade Trump’s Middle East advisers that the document at least shows there is the potential for a peace settlement based on the recent regional push led by Egypt. It may also open the way for international investors to start rebuilding basic services in Gaza, and end the blockade.
In the biggest "concession", the new document states that Hamas “considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of 4 June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus”.
By implication, the document accepts that there will be another state entity outside these borders, even if it does not mention Israel.
Previously the movement’s leaders have given verbal commitments to the more limited aim of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but the aim has never been put formally in writing.
Hamas, which wrested control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority – controlled by Fatah. Since then, all efforts since to reconcile the two Palestinian factions have faltered.
The new Hamas document essentially brings the two sides closer to the same negotiating objective.
The policy statement asserts: “Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine. Yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity.”
Critics of Hamas will point out the document rejects the Oslo accords, and asserts that resistance for the liberation of Palestine will remain “a legitimate right, a duty and an honor”, adding “armed resistance is regarded as the strategic choice for protecting the principles and rights of the Palestinian people”.
The new charter also abandons past references claiming Hamas is part of a pan-national Muslim Brotherhood, to which it was closely linked when formed.
This aspect of the statement could improve the currently difficult relations with the Egyptian government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as army chief overthrew his Islamist predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013 and has since led a bloody crackdown on the Brotherhood.
Hamas had been planning to present the charter at the Intercontinental hotel in the Qatari capital of Doha, but the hotel canceled, prompting Hamas to rush to find an alternative location, eventually holding the event at the Doha Sheraton.
In advance of the publication, Netanyahu’s office said: “Hamas’s document is a smokescreen. We see Hamas continuing to invest all of its resources not just in preparing for war with Israel, but also in educating the children of Gaza to want to destroy Israel.”
“The day Hamas stops digging tunnels and diverts its resources to civilian infrastructure and stop educating children to hate Israelis, that would be real change,” the statement said.
Ismail Haniyeh, the Gaza-based deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, said at an event in the Gaza Strip on Sunday that “the new document will undermine neither our principles nor our strategy. Jerusalem, the right of return, Palestinian unity and the resistance forces are fundamental principles. The changes relate to regional developments, and suit the era.”