On Tuesday (June 27), Hamas and Fatah reached agreement over a document drafted by a number of Palestinian prisoners. This agreement raised the issue of whether Hamas has now met the International Community’s terms for a resumption of assistance to the Palestinian Government. It has not.
In the wake of the January 2006 election that saw Hamas gain a majority position in the Palestinian Government, the Madrid Quartet (the UN, EU, United States and Russia) laid out three criteria by which that government would remain eligible for international assistance: recognition of Israel, respect for existing diplomatic agreements, and a renunciation of violence. These minimal conditions are vitally important if a meaningful peace process is to be possible. Recognition of Israel entails a willingness by Hamas to negotiate toward a two-state solution to the historic Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The willingness of Hamas to honor the obligations set forth in diplomatic agreements is essential if diplomacy is to be viable. A renunciation of violence is key to making diplomacy the sole channel by which the historic dispute is addressed.
Even as the specific language of the Hamas-Fatah agreement has not been published, the terms of the prisoners’ document on which both parties reached consensus are public. Its terms fall far short of the criteria laid out by the International Community. It does not require Hamas to abandon its objective of seeking Israel’s elimination, it does not bind the Hamas-led Palestinian Government to the terms of existing diplomatic agreements, and, rather than renouncing violence, reaffirms its legitimacy.
Article 1 of the prisoners’ document contains a “poison pill” by which Israel would be compelled to commit demographic suicide. Article 1 declares that the Palestinian leadership will seek “to secure the right of return for the refugees. ” Article 9 provides additional language toward that end. By demanding that Israel admit all Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War and all their descendents, the overwhelming majority of whom were not born in Israel, Israel’s demographics would be changed so as to render it a Jewish minority state. Afterward, Israel’s democratic system could be employed by the new majority population to engineer Israel’s demise and subsequent consolidation with a Palestinian state. The outcome would be Israel's disappearance from the map and the language concerning territories captured by Israel in the 1967 War would provide no protection whatsoever from this fate.
Article 3 of the prisoners’ document proclaims a “right of the Palestinian people” to maintain an “option” for violence, even as it seeks to focus that violence on territories captured by Israel in 1967. That represents a dramatic rejection the Madrid Quartet’s criteria that Hamas renounce violence and that concerning respect for existing diplomatic agreements.
The Israel-Palestine Liberation Organization Agreement of 1993 (the first “Oslo” agreement) declared, “The Government of the State of Israel and the Palestinian team representing the Palestinian people agree that it is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict, recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights, and strive to live in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation through the agreed political process. ” The Oslo Agreement’s “agreed political process” does not in any way, shape, or form grant permission for the Palestinians to undertake terrorist acts. The Road Map states that a “two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and willing able to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty. ” The Road Map’s language calling for an “end to violence” is unequivocal.
Nonetheless, a number of news stories—almost as if their authors were tripping over themselves to speak for Hamas and will that organization into a position it has not adopted-and pundits have proclaimed that Hamas has now recognized Israel albeit implicitly. Hamas can speak for itself and it has most clearly. Hamas minister Abdel Rahman Zeidan declared, “You will not find one word in the document clearly stating the recognition of Israel as a state. Nobody has agreed to this. This was not on the table. This was not in the dialogue. ” Hamas legislator Salah al-Bardaweel stated, “We said we accept a state [in territory captured] in 1967 - but we did not say we accept two states. " On the Hamas website, that organization’s leading spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated that the agreement “doesn’t violate any” of Hamas’ “constants and principles. ”
The Hamas Charter lays out those “constants and principles” in unambiguous language. It declares, “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. ” Furthermore, it states, “Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. ”
At last word, Hamas has given no indication that it plans to alter its Charter. Instead, its spokesmen have dismissed any notions that Hamas has explicitly or implicitly recognized Israel. In the end, if one wants to determine Hamas’ intent, judge Hamas by its actions, not the “transference” of reporters’ wishful thinking. The key “tests” that will determine Hamas’ intentions are the following:
Until then, one should be wary of accepting a “false spring” of a recognition of Israel by Hamas that has not occurred. In the end, while agreement on the prisoners’ document might constitute a consensus among Palestinian factions, it most definitely does not meet the minimal criteria set forth by the International Community.
Don Sutherland has researched and written on a wide range of geopolitical issues.