Recently, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center published the full English version of the Hamas policy document as translated by Hamas. In this document, Hamas tries to present a more moderate image to the international community in order to ease its international isolation.
This more moderate image was reinforced by statements made by Hamas leader Khaled Mashal.
According to various analysts, the new Hamas policy document is not aimed at replacing the Hamas Charter but at adapting the terrorist group to the times. The question remains, what has actually changed on the ground related to Hamas, what has remained the same, who stands behind the recent Hamas policy document and why was it issued now? Also, what is the significance of the Hamas policy document? Should Israel change its policy? And will the new policy document help Hamas to improve its relationship with Egypt?
The original Hamas Charter was a heavily antisemitic document, quoting extensively from The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and publicizing the following Hadith: “The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslim, O servant of God, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
However, the new Hamas policy document instead of employing antisemitic language differentiates between Jews and the Zionist movement, which it claims represents the “most dangerous settlement occupation” that “must disappear from Palestine.”
According to the new Hamas policy document, “Hamas opposes any oppression of anyone or any damage to their rights due to nationality, religion or ethnic group. Anti-Semitism and oppression of Jews are a phenomena connected to European history, not to Arab and Muslim history.”
While Hamas still demands the establishment of a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, it will accept the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1949 armistice lines that includes the right of return. However, this does not mean it will recognize Israel’s right to exist: “Israel’s existence is null and void from its establishment.”
It furthermore proclaims: “The jihad to liberate Palestine will remain a legitimate right, duty, and honor for all members of our people and our Muslim nation.”
Nevertheless, for the first time, Hamas has stated that while it is not interested in negotiating with Israel presently, it is no longer opposed to negotiations in principle, for both the Prophet Muhammad and Saladin spoke to their enemies. Additionally, in the new Hamas policy document, Hamas defines itself as a Palestinian Islamic movement and not as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a move that came about after heavy Egyptian pressure.
At a press conference, Khaled Mashal clarified that Hamas belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood school of thought but is not subordinate to any other organization.
ACCORDING TO a Palestinian source, an Egyptian government source confirmed that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi has been pushing Hamas to present a more moderate stance since last December: “Sisi’s point was that with President [Donald] Trump in the White House, he won’t take any nonsense from Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. According to my source, members of... Egyptian intelligence have held numerous secret meetings with... Hamas leadership in both Cairo and Gaza.”
The source claimed that Egypt warned Hamas that the next time Israel attacks it, Israel will keep fighting to the end and could even retake Gaza.
The source noted that the Egyptians have warned Hamas that its own people have had enough of them, too, and that “instead of fighting Israel, they may even welcome it.”
Former Israeli consul-general Dr. Yitzchak Ben-Gad asserted that domestic unrest in Gaza played a role in Hamas issuing the new policy document: “The situation in the Gaza Strip is disastrous. People suffer day and night. They don’t have electricity except for a few hours per day. Unemployment is over 50 percent. The water is not clean. The sewage system is in terrible condition. According to the UN, Gaza in 2020 will not be a place where people can live.
“More than that, despite the fear that Hamas spreads among its people, recently, there was a big demonstration against... Hamas asking for electricity, asking for a normal life. Namely, the leaders of Hamas can see now their blind rejection of any negotiations and their fanatical philosophy is getting them nowhere. Hamas is trying to show that they will accept Israel based on the 1967 borders in order to reduce the pressure.”
Dr. Reuven Ehrlich, the head of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center, also confirmed that the election of President Trump played a role in Hamas’ new policy: “I don’t think that it has significant implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because their tough, rigid principles don’t allow any negotiations or promoting a political process. On the contrary, they will try to prevent Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] and the PA from going forward. On the other hand, I think they will try to send messages to the West, mainly to Trump in the US, that they made their own concessions and now it is time for the US and the West to put pressure on Israel for they changed some of their problematic articles. They are trying to gain tactical benefits with Egypt, maybe also with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Maybe also the PA and Fatah because they are repeating a call for internal Palestinian partnership. These are their main targets.”
In conclusion, the new Hamas policy document is nothing more than a facade designed to give a terrorist group a positive image. On the ground, Hamas is anything but a moderate movement.
The proof of this is that it still has not rejected its antisemitic charter in this carefully crafted public relations stunt. Given this reality, Israel should not change its policy, for Hamas still refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist within any borders and has not agreed to any compromise on the right of return. It still supports violence against Israel until the complete liberation of Palestine. From an Israeli point of view, any concessions made in the Hamas policy document are non-starters.
The new Hamas policy document is also a non-starter for the Trump administration, which has kept Hamas listed as a terrorist organization despite the changes. However, it appears that the Hamas public relations campaign has worked with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who praised it as a first step for Palestinian reconciliation.
Whether the new Hamas tactic will work with Egypt remains an open question. For the Egyptians, what is important is that Hamas is distancing itself from the Muslim Brotherhood. However, at the same time, the Egyptians are realistic enough to know that foreign policy is not based upon one document.The author is an independent media research analyst and journalist who publishes in a variety of media outlets across the Jewish world. She is the author of Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.