Hamas Politburo chairman Khaled Mashaal on Monday presented a new policy document at a press conference in Doha, Qatar.
While some observers have interpreted the document as Hamas moderating its positions on Israel, the details of the document show that Hamas is not undertaking major changes.
Observers say that Hamas’s acceptance of a Palestinian state along pre-1967 borders as “a national consensus” indicates that Hamas is positioning itself to make territorial compromises with Israel.
However, Hamas makes clear throughout the document that it is not prepared to make such a compromise.
“Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” the document states.
It also says that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, as the Palestine Liberation Organization did in 1993. “There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity,” the document reads.
Taken together, Hamas’s rejection of territorial compromise and recognizing Israel leaves no room to believe it is moving in the direction of making concessions to Israel.
Another important question is: Why Hamas spent the past four years producing a new policy document? According to Mashaal, the document was created to explain Hamas’s policy and positions to Palestinians, the Arab world and the broader international community.
“We are presenting this document to Hamas members... the Palestinian people, of which we are an important part, our partners in the homeland, the Islamic and Arab masses and the regional and international community,” Mashaal said. “We are saying to them: This is Hamas.”
However, what Mashaal did not say is that Hamas is in need of the international community to help end its international isolation.
Gaza, the territory Hamas controls, is experiencing an acute unemployment crisis, the electricity, water and sanitation systems are collapsing, and movement in and out continues to be restricted. The situation is so dire that the UN is predicting Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020.
Meanwhile, Hamas is deeply isolated politically with few contacts in Egypt, which is imposing a blockade on Gaza’s southern border, and has almost no relations with the world’s major powers.
Thus, Hamas hopes that by showing the world a more moderate face – and having the world accept that fiction – it will be able to maneuver out of its current bind.