Hamas’ new political program is essentially a ploy to create the illusion of backing away from a longstanding pledge to destroy Israel.
Lest there be no mistake: The statement may revise Hamas’ 1988 charter, but it contains nothing to warrant an end to the terrorist organization’s international isolation.
The statement, more a manifesto, seeks the liberation of “the land and the home of the Palestinian people” lying between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea —including the Jewish state.
Hamas imagines a national consensus for a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 borders between Israel and the Palestinian territories, with east Jerusalem as the capital. The imagined scenario includes a right of return to “the Zionist entity” for Palestinian “refugees” — double talk for staking claim to Israel, which Hamas insists is an occupier of Palestinian land.
Hamas reinforces its “refusal to cease terror, recognize Israel’s right to exist or abide by past Israeli-Palestinian agreements.” It thus rejects, once more, the three preconditions set by the West for Hamas to be considered a legitimate regional player.
Mitchell Bard, a noted American foreign policy analyst specializing in U.S.-Middle East policy, sets the record straight in a scathing review of Hamas’ May 1 revision of its “General Principles and Policies.”
In doing so, he presents a compelling case for why Hamas, whose terror-driven leadership rules the Gaza Strip, will never be a partner with any stature in the pursuit of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Hardly “moderating its image,” Hamas largely restates long-held positions against Israel, but cloaks its “hostility” toward Jews by using “Zionists” as a “euphemism,” Bard asserts.
The elusive two-state solution calls for a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank with the Arab-majority eastern sector of Jerusalem as its capital. Fatah, the lead faction of the Maumoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, governs Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank. Hamas, “elected” to lead Gaza in 2006, ousted P.A. loyalists from the coastal strip in 2007.
Bard is executive director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, a Maryland-based nonprofit dedicated to a stronger U.S.-Israel relationship. He also is executive director of the Jewish Virtual Library. He’s former editor of Near East Report, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee newsletter.
Most Jews know the Hamas charter is grounded in terror. Few Jews have pored over the document like Bard has.
One of his central findings: Hamas is at war with the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO is the global representative and chief negotiator for the Palestinian people. Hamas isn’t just seeking a seat at the table of Palestinian leadership; it wants to occupy every seat.
“Hamas will not give up terrorism regardless of any decisions by others to pursue nonviolent means of achieving Palestinian objectives,” writes Bard.
Which folds seamlessly into his point that Hamas not only “staged a coup against the Palestinian Authority to take over the Gaza Strip,” but also “seeks to do the same in the West Bank.”
He adds, “Hamas is interested in the domination of Hamas. Its war against its rivals demonstrates its lack of concern with unity.”
He’s saying Hamas and Fatah lack the political capital to ever reunite.
By necessity, Bard maintains, Hamas overlooks Israeli peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt to argue “the Zionist project” is an enemy of the Arab/Islamic world. In search of legitimacy, Hamas also strives to break from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, its 1987 progenitor, and position itself as a Palestinian national liberation and resistance movement.
Hamas hammers on the Palestinian plight outranking other Arab/Islamic matters — as if states in the Arab League don’t believe stopping Islamic State and Iran from grabbing regional hegemony isn’t more urgent.
Don’t be swayed by Khaled Mashaal, outgoing Hamas political chief in exile, who, according to the Associated Press, said at a Qatar news briefing that the recast policy document reflects “a reasonable Hamas that is serious about dealing with the reality and the regional and international surroundings while still representing the cause of its people.”
Fatah, presumably moderate by Palestinian standards, boasts its own terrorist wing. But under the right leadership — which could be in store given President Abbas is 82 — perhaps Fatah one day could dawn new stripes conducive to peace with Israel.
Hamas, in contrast, isn’t about to make peace with Israel, Fatah or anyone not aligned with Gaza City’s radical Islamist orbit.
Hamas represents an ideology, not an inherent will. While all Gazans must fall in line to survive, that doesn’t mean there’s not a glint of support within for a better way of life rooted in Israeli-Palestinian peace.
As Bard puts it: “The terrorist activities of Hamas, its bigotry toward Jews, gays and Christians, and mistreatment of women undermine the values of peace and tolerance expressed by Muslims who do not share Hamas’ extremist ideology.”
Somehow tapping into that pivotal resistance could unlock a realm of possibility for direct, bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinians — the likeliest path toward a productive, lasting peace.