Hamas political leader Musa Abu Marzouk (R) shakes hands with a Hamas militant as he visits the mourning tent of senior Hamas commander Mohammed Abu Shammala (seen in posters)..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A senior Hamas leader said on Thursday that there was nothing wrong with negotiating with Israel, adding that his movement might be forced to do so one day.
Musa Abu Marzouk, member of the Hamas political bureau based in Egypt, said in a TV interview that from a religious point of view, “there is nothing wrong with negotiating with the occupation.”
Marzouk, who headed the Hamas team to the recent cease-fire talks with Israel, pointed out that his movement had previously “negotiated with the occupation with weapons.”
He added: “I believe that if the situation remains as it is, Hamas might be forced – and I say this frankly – to go in this path. This has become a popular demand in all the Gaza Strip.”
He explained that Hamas might be forced to negotiate with Israel if the Palestinian Authority fails to address the problems in the Strip.
“If the situation remains unchanged, many issues that were considered semi-taboo will be on Hamas’s agenda,” he added, referring to the possibility of conducting negotiations with Israel.
He noted, however, that Hamas’s policy thus far has been to refrain from holding talks with Israel. “But others need to realize that this matter is not forbidden,” he said.
Marzouk later issued a statement clarifying his remarks saying that “direct negotiations with the Israeli occupation is not part of Hamas’s policy and is not being discussed by it.”
Fatah reacted to Marzouk’s remarks by saying that they did not come as a surprise.
Hazem Abu Shanab, a senior Fatah official, claimed that Hamas has been negotiating with Israel for several years.
Shanab said that already in 2008 there were leaks about security coordination between Hamas and Israel.
He added that in 2012 the same two sides again conducted negotiations under the auspices of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.
Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf responded by stating that “negotiating with Israel outside the frame of Palestinian legitimacy is an act of treason.”
Assaf continued: “Since when does a Palestinian faction hold separate talks with Israel? This is the climax of treason.”
The Fatah spokesman claimed that Hamas has been conducting secret direct and indirect negotiations with Israel over humanitarian and political issues for many years.
One Israeli official said that Jerusalem will not hold direct dialogue with Hamas, and that it is not alone in this position.
Most of the international community refuses to deal directly with the terrorist group because it has not accepted three clear benchmarks set by the UN: forswearing terrorism, recognizing Israel, and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, he said.
“Ultimately if Hamas wants to be considered a legitimate partner for talks, it needs to meet the UN benchmarks,” he added.
The official denied Fatah’s claim that Hamas has held direct talks with Israel. “It is possible that Fatah is saying this as a way to justify it’s own talks with Israel,” he said.