HomeNewsboxIn Palestinian Power Struggle, Hamas Eases Talk on Israel

In Palestinian Power Struggle, Hamas Eases Talk on Israel

Mr. Abbas was scheduled to meet with Mr. Trump in Washington on Wednesday as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. He has sought in recent weeks to rein in Hamas, cutting salaries and refusing to pay for electricity, in a bid to undermine the group’s authority. Gazans now have only a few hours of power a day.

“Whether it’s a coincidence or it’s connected, I have one thing to say: The Palestinian leadership is afraid of this Hamas moderation,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University in Gaza. “Because the P.A. and Fatah are afraid that by this moderation, Hamas presents itself as the true representation of the Palestinian people,” he said, referring to the Palestinian Authority.

The document is a distillation of various public statements over the years signaling an attempt by Hamas to appear more pragmatic since it seized broad control in 2007 after winning parliamentary elections a year earlier. Four years in the drafting, the document represents the consensus of Hamas’s top leadership.

The paper calls for Hamas to distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood in an effort to build stronger ties with Egypt, which controls the Gaza Strip’s southern border; reiterates the view of Hamas leadership that it is open to a Palestinian state along the borders established after the 1967 war, though it does not renounce future claims to Palestinian rule over what is now Israel; and specifically weakens language from its 1988 charter proclaiming Jews as enemies and comparing their views to Nazism, though the new document does not replace the original charter.

“Hamas does not have a conflict with the Jews because they are Jews, but Hamas has a conflict with the Zionists, occupiers and aggressors,” the new document states.

Experts on all sides of the endlessly complex struggle here say the new document is unlikely to immediately change Hamas’s position, especially because the group recently chose a hard-liner, Yehya Sinwar, as its new leader in Gaza, and because it in no way recognizes Israel or renounces violence.

But the move highlights the deepening struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, both internationally and among Palestinians. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by much of the West, including the United States, a status that has led to its exclusion from wider international talks about the Palestinians’ future, and the document aims to make Hamas better heard on the international stage.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the group had to move beyond its original charter to achieve its goals. “The document gives us a chance to connect with the outside world,” he said. “To the world, our message is: Hamas is not radical. We are a pragmatic and civilized movement. We do not hate the Jews. We only fight who occupies our lands and kills our people.”

Mr. Abbas, 82, is increasingly unpopular at home, though he is the recognized conduit to the wider world, and his rivals are already publicly vying to succeed him.

Marwan Barghouti, a popular figure among Palestinians who is serving five life sentences for murders in the second intifada, is leading a hunger strike in Israeli jails, now two weeks old, that some experts say is aimed at raising his credibility as a leader.

Mr. Trump has expressed a desire for a peace process that brings in Sunni Arab states that are aligned against Shiite Iran, itself allied with Hamas, even as Hamas seeks to become closer to those same Sunni states.

“The P.A. and Hamas compete to get embraced by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab states, but it seems the Arab embrace is not enough for two women,” said Fayez Abu Shamala, a Palestinian writer and political analyst close to Hamas.

The new document, however, reveals a greater pragmatism and willingness to engage with the outside world, he said. “Hamas will be an influential political body in the next phase.”

In Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008, the document was greeted with skepticism.

“Not even one mind” will be changed in Israel, said Yossi Kuperwasser, a retired Israeli brigadier general who leads the army’s research arm. “Nobody will be affected by this.”

Mr. Kuperwasser called it “sugarcoating” on old positions that do not renounce Hamas’s original charter and do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. He did say, however, that it could be problematic for Mr. Abbas because the Palestinian Authority and Hamas platforms appear to be growing closer.

In the document, Hamas says Palestinians who fled or were expelled during wars with Israelis have the right to return — largely a nonstarter in successive peace negotiations with Israel. And it does not renounce violence; “resistance” continues to be a main source of strength and credibility.

“Hamas refuses to hinder the resistance or its weapons, and confirms the right of our people to develop resistance tools and equipments,” the document says. “Hamas confirms that the resistance leadership can decide the level of resistance and can utilize a variety of the different tools and way to administrate the conflict, without compromising the resistance.”

In distancing itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, analysts said Hamas was likely to improve its often-strained relationship with Egypt, even if it was unlikely to open the border between Egypt and Gaza for trade.

“It’s a huge step for Hamas, but I think they should temper their expectations about the reaction from the Egyptians,” said Abdelrahman Ayyash, a researcher on Islamist movements based in Istanbul.

Under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt frequently accuses Hamas of aiding Islamist militants in attacks against Egyptian security forces in Sinai and Egypt’s main cities. Egyptian security officials and pro-government news media accuse Hamas, often without proof, of providing militants with training and guns.

At the same time, Egyptian intelligence has quietly renewed its relationship with Hamas in recent years, in an effort to secure Sinai and to bolster Egypt’s role as a mediator in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Ahead of Mr. Abbas’s visit to Washington, the Egyptians are keen to establish their role as potential peacemakers. After a meeting between Mr. Sisi and Mr. Abbas in Cairo on Saturday, the Egyptian president’s office issued a statement that noted Egypt’s “pivotal role,” and urged Palestinian unity as “essential to put an end to the plight of the Palestinian people.”

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