Doha (GPA) – Yesterday the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) removed some of the harsher rhetoric towards Israel from their 1988 charter, but Tel Aviv isn’t buying it.
Speaking at a press conference in Doha, Qatar, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal laid out changes to the founding charter of the radical organization turned political party in regards to their primary foil, Israel. The party has also dropped their previous identification as a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The move away from the Muslim Brotherhood is most likely an attempt to try to draw in more Arab allies for Hamas since the Islamist political party is considered a terror organization by several Arab states. The same can be said for the change in language concerning the Palestinian struggle although it’s unclear what, if any, policy is actually changed.
As far as Israel is concerned, all Hamas has really done was to remove language calling for the destruction of the Jewish state on previously Palestinian land. This may be confusing since they also claim that they will continue to uphold their policy of supporting armed struggle against Israel and say the country has no right to exist.
The timing of the changes most likely has to do with the new more-pro-Israeli regime in the US under president Donald Trump. This seems likely if you look at Meshaal’s own words, especially when he told reporters “We don’t want to dilute our principles but we want to be open. We hope this (document) will mark a change in the stance of European states towards us.”
The move also comes before a scheduled Washington visit by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Many observers think the move by Hamas may be an attempt at gaining legitimacy to participate in talks on the future of Palestine which will most likely be led by Abbas.
The moderation may also be an attempt by Hamas to try joining the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which is the wider coalition of various Palestinian groups. Most likely, Hamas will still find this difficult due to their designation as a terrorist organization despite their role as the elected leadership of the Gaza Strip.
The PLO used to operate under similar principles as those stated in the Hamas charter but recently softened their tone as well to become, in the words of Abbas, “a national framework for the Palestinian people inside and outside of Palestine.” The PLO leadership rarely agree on material issues so it remains unlikely that Hamas will be accepted in this circle anytime soon.
Israeli Response to Charter Changes
Another actor that’s unlikely to soften their tone no matter what Hamas says, obviously, is Israel. As stated above, Hamas didn’t change their language concerning the goal of ending the state of Israel in any form.
Although Hamas now says they would negotiate based on the Israeli-Palestinian borders of prior 1967 MidEast war, the authorities in Tel Aviv aren’t buying it. The concern in Israel is that this is just a pretext to gain ground and then later revive their plans to liberate all of Palestine.
David Keyes, a spokesman for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced this position to reporters, saying “Hamas is attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed.” This was also agreed on by Israeli Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan who said the change in policy was a only “false display and PR stunt.”
Clearly it’s not going to matter to Israel what Hamas says publicly due to the group’s history of militancy aimed at the occupying forces. It’s also unlikely this change in language will facilitate anything closer to acceptance of Hamas by the PLO, both from the organization itself or hard line supporters of Hamas who believe in their previously more militant tactics. If Hamas continues to fold and fail like this, we shouldn’t be surprised if a new movement takes up a more aggressive strategy in the future.
Also published on Medium.