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March 16, 2015 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 5995

Hamas Rejects Quartet Representative Blair's Demands: 'We Will Not Give Up Our Principles As Part Of Solving The Problems Of Gaza Residents'

March 16, 2015
Palestine, Palestine | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 5995

On February 15, 2015, Quartet representative Tony Blair visited the Gaza Strip and presented a series of demands to Hamas for advancing the Israeli-Palestinian political process and for rebuilding Gaza. The most important of these demands was that Hamas accept the two-state solution as an end to the conflict; by doing so, Hamas will in effect meet the Quartet's conditions - abandoning terrorism, honoring previous agreements, and recognizing Israel.

Blair further demanded that Hamas clarify whether it is "a Palestinian nationalist movement dedicated to the achievement of a Palestinian State or part of a broader Islamist movement with regional designs that impact governments outside of Gaza" (i.e., the MB).

Calling on the Palestinians to implement the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, Blair spoke of the need to open the crossings so that Gaza could be reunited with the outside world. He also asked Israel to support the rebuilding of Gaza and to open the Israel-Gaza crossings, and asked Egypt to take the lead in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Hamas officials and writers on websites that are close to Hamas rejected Blair's demands outright, claiming that they posed a danger to the Palestinian cause and stressing that even if Hamas did agree to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, it would neither relinquish its rights nor recognize Israel. As for the demand that Hamas clarify its identity, some argued that Hamas was a Palestinian movement, while others stated that it was part of the Islamic ummah.


Blair in Gaza (Source: Amad.ps, February 15, 2015)

The following are excerpts from Blair's statements and from responses by Hamas officials and columnists.

Blair's Requests, Demands To Hamas, Israel, And Egypt

During his Gaza visit, Blair presented the Quartet's position on the political process; on improving the lives of the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza; and on the role that Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Hamas should play regarding these issues.

In his meeting with members of the Palestinian national consent government and representatives from the public and private sectors, Blair said that the achievement of peace was based on the following: "First, a dramatic and broad improvement in the daily lives of Palestinians; second, a unified Palestinian politics on a basis that explicitly is in favor of peace and two states, meaning a sovereign State of Palestine and a secure, accepted State of Israel; and third, an enhanced role for the region, in alliance with the international community, which must step up to share leadership of the issue."

Blair underlined the need for paying PA employee salaries and for arriving at agreements regarding vital Gaza infrastructure such as power, water, and housing, and added: "We need change in Gaza to open it up and reconnect it with the world. For that to happen, we need reconciliation in Palestinian politics, and for reconciliation to happen, we need unity to be on a basis which supports peace."

Some of Blair's demands were aimed at Hamas: "The international community needs clarity from Hamas: are they a Palestinian nationalist movement dedicated to the achievement of a Palestinian State or part of a broader Islamist movement with regional designs that impact governments outside of Gaza? Are they prepared to accept a Palestinian State within 1967 borders or not, with such a State being a final settlement to the conflict? If they are, that would allow the international community to promote reconciliation alongside reconstruction.

"Egypt has to be given credible guarantees about its own security, as it is affected by Gaza, with assurances that Gaza will not be used as a base for terrorist activity in Sinai and that there will be cooperation with the government of Egypt to prevent it."

Blair also presented demands to Israel, Egypt, and the PA: "The Gaza crossings should be opened in such a way to facilitate the movement of people and goods so that Gaza can be reunited with the outside world and its economy able to grow. Israel should also do all that it can to assist reconstruction and to open up Gaza crossings to allow the maximum amount of material in; and to avoid returning to the destruction of three conflicts in six years. Egypt should then lead the negotiation about the long-term future of Gaza, including around issues such as the airport and seaport as was envisaged by the agreement to end the recent conflict. This Gaza plan should be part of a wider agreement after the new government of Israel is established, which should have at its core the dramatic improvement of Palestinian life on the West Bank. This in turn could pave the way for Palestinian elections and the resumption of a proper negotiation for the resolution of the peace process."[1]

Hamas Officials: We Will Not Recognize Israel

Hamas officials rejected Blair's demands, which they saw as preconditions for the rebuilding of Gaza, and said that the movement would not relinquish its principles. Thus, for example, Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar told a website close to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) that Blair was adopting Israel's positions and that Hamas rejected such conditions, particularly accepting the two-state solution as an end to the conflict: "Hamas and the resistance factions will not relinquish principles in order to solve the daily problems that afflict Gazans. We cannot accept Tony Blair's conditions, because they are very dangerous for the Palestinian cause. Any Palestinian element that accepts Blair's messages and conditions, including Hamas, would be making a grave error and committing a historic crime that could never be forgiven... We are prepared for a state in the '67 borders, but we will recognize neither Israel nor its ownership of a single inch of Palestine. Making the restoration of Gaza conditional upon ending the conflict is cheap haggling that is unacceptable to Hamas, and Hamas has alternatives in this matter."[2]

Another Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouq, said: "The problem lies not with us but with the Israeli side, and Blair should address his words to Israel and ask it whether it would agree to a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, evacuate the settlements, and cease taking over occupied West Bank land." Regarding acceptance of the two-state solution as an end to the conflict, he said: "Hamas will not sign away the rights and hopes of the Palestinian people. Why shouldn't we demand that Israel grant the Palestinians their rights in their homeland and that it implement the UN resolutions regarding the Palestinian refugees' return to their homes and property?"[3]

Hamas columnist 'Issam Shawar wrote: "If the West can force Israel to implement the agreements made after its defeat [in the last Gaza conflict], and it proves that it is serious and that it honors agreements, Hamas can consider a long-term political solution. However, Israel, the UAE, Egypt, and anyone who plots against the Palestinian people should forget about any Hamas recognition of the legitimacy of the occupation of territories conquered in 1948."[4]

Varying Reactions On Hamas's Identity - Palestinian Movement Or Part Of MB

Blair's demand that Hamas clarify its identity and state whether it is a Palestinian movement working to achieve Palestinian goals or part of an Islamic movement with regional designs triggered varying reactions among Hamas officials, reflecting the different streams within the movement. While some expressed the view that Hamas is a part of the Islamic ummah, others emphasized its local aspect as a Palestinian Islamic movement. 

Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said: "Hamas believes in a single Islamic ummah and will not back down from this principle. We will not meet a demand to make the Palestinian problem national as opposed to Islamic and to keep it within Palestine's borders, because Palestine is a fundamental part of the Arab and Islamic ummah. Hamas is a national movement [and also] part of the [Islamic] ummah."[5]

In contrast, Moussa Abu Marzouq claimed that Hamas had no regional aspirations: "Blair is referring to the global MB organization, and it is known that many use this name as an excuse more than as a fact, because every Islamic movement has local leaderships [in different countries] that create their own political climate and arena, and nothing connects the differing and [even] contradictory policies of the countries where these leaderships exist. The claim that there is an Islamic movement with regional designs requires proof, such as the existence of a plan and a policy. What are they?" He added: "Hamas is a Palestinian liberation movement that carries out resistance in the territory of Palestine, and has no interest or plan to attack anyone else, even if they disagree on ideology or policy. Hamas conducts no activity outside Palestine."[6]

"Blair Is Party To An Alliance Defeated By The Resistance... [He] Has No Right To Set Conditions"

As for Blair's demand to implement the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, Moussa Abu Marzouq said: "We support the implementation of every clause in the reconciliation agreement with Fatah."[7]

'Issam Shawar attacked this demand in his column: "Blair is party to an alliance defeated by the resistance and the Al-Qassam Brigades and has no right to set conditions, but must rather meet them before things boil over... He has no right to interfere with the reconciliation or with Hamas-Egypt relations. The reconciliation is an internal matter, while relations with Egypt constitute aggression from the Egyptian side, which designated the Al-Qassam Brigades a terrorist organization at a time when Europe removed Hamas from its terror list.

"The Egyptian side continues to demonize the Palestinian resistance and to ratchet up the pressure on the Gaza Strip, while Hamas is showing restraint and is working to restore the fabric of relations, that is constantly being harmed by the regime of [Egyptian President] Al-Sisi and its corrupt media outlets. Europe should pressure the illegitimate regime in Egypt to cease provoking the Al-Qassam Brigades and the entire Palestinian people."[8]

 

Endnotes:


[1] Unispal.un.org, February 15, 2015.

[2] Paltoday.ps, February 19, 2015.

[3] Al-Risala (Gaza), February 17, 2015.

[4] Felesteen.ps, February 18, 2015.

[5] Paltoday.ps, February 19, 2015.

[6] Al-Risala (Gaza), February 17, 2015.

[7] Al-Risala (Gaza), February 17, 2015.

[8] Felesteen.ps, February 18, 2015.

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