Hamas: A Changing Position Towards Israel and Two States

(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

,- The position of the militant organization Hamas has come under close examination in the turbulent environment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas has raised the prospect of, albeit with restrictions, embracing a two-state agreement with Israel for the last fifteen years. But its failure to declare open recognition of Israel or to give up violent resistance has increased doubt among Israel and its supporters, who see Hamas as an existential threat. Let us examine the subtleties of Hamas' changing stance and how it affects the peace process.

Declared a terrorist group by many governments, including the US and European Union, Hamas has frequently been depicted as unwavering in its quest to destroy Israel. This impression has been strengthened by the group's support of armed resistance and its historical language. Senior Hamas officials have recently expressed a degree of pragmatism, nevertheless, that may open the door to a settlement of the dispute.

Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya described a hypothetical situation in a recent interview with The Associated Press in which Hamas would become a political organization provided an independent Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders were created in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Though these comments indicate a readiness to have diplomatic conversations, Hamas's support for "armed resistance" and the liberation of all Palestinian territory betrays its commitment to a long-lasting peace.

But following Hamas' most recent strikes on southern Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still dubious about the group's goals. Reiterating his pledge to destroy Hamas, Netanyahu has undermined the Palestinian Authority's efforts at recognition and peace talks and rejected the notion of a Palestinian state.

The subtleties in Hamas' stances over time mirror the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After winning elections in 2006, Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held unity talks in which Hamas offered to establish a Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundaries on condition that a truce be reached. But the unity government's subsequent fall due to internal conflict brought home how difficult it is to balance Hamas' ideological position with sensible government.

Then-political leader of Hamas Khaled Mashaal suggested in 2008 that a 10-year ceasefire with Israel be accompanied by the recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Mashaal made hints at the prospect of Hamas, subject to Palestinian agreement, endorsing a durable peace deal through a referendum, without recognizing Israel.

Later unity negotiations between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have had different results; internal conflicts and outside pressures have hampered efforts to forge a single position. Releasing its updated political platform in 2017, Hamas broke significantly with its original charter by redefining the fight in terms of national liberation and human rights rather than religious doctrine.

Although reiterating Hamas' dedication to armed resistance, the 2017 declaration recognized the potential for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hamas' willingness to hold serious talks with Israel has been called into question, though, by its rejection of any substitute for the "full and complete liberation of Palestine".

The idea of a two-state solution is seriously challenged by Hamas's unwavering principal goal of recovering all Palestinian territory, notwithstanding its verbal changes. The group makes it more difficult to restart peace talks and bring about long-lasting stability in the region because of its unclear position on important topics like disarmament and recognition of Israel.

Finally, Hamas' changing stance in favor of a two-state solution captures the complex dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even if the group's recent remarks suggest a readiness to work through diplomatic channels, peace is still hampered by its armed resistance pledge and its inability to clearly acknowledge Israel. Realizing a sustainable resolution to the long-standing problem still depends on partners navigating these intricacies and encouraging sincere communication.

(Newsline Paper Teams)

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