January 27, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1079

Hamas in Run-up to Elections: Relatively Pragmatic Statements Alongside Extremist Statements

January 27, 2006
Special Dispatch No. 1079

In the run-up to the Palestinian elections, Hamas members in the Palestinian Authority began to make relatively pragmatic statements, while continuing to make extremist statements. According to media reports, Hamas has retained a media consultant to improve the movement's image - though Hamas claims that the consultant was hired to provide technical advice on enhancing contacts with the media [1]. It should be noted that the relatively pragmatic statements were made by Hamas members involved in the elections, and not by the movement's central leaders, who live abroad. These leaders, in particular political bureau head Khaled Mash'al, emphasize continued resistance alongside "diplomatic activity," and state that there is no contradiction between the two.

The following are excerpts from statements by Hamas members:

Establishing a Palestinian State Within the 1967 Borders as an Interim Solution

Isma'il Haniyya, who headed the Hamas list of candidates for the Legislative Council, said in an interview with the French news agency AFP that "Hamas supports the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in the territories occupied [by Israel] in 1967 - as an interim solution. However, Hamas will continue to maintain its views regarding the boundaries of historical Palestine, and [in terms of] refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the occupation." [2]

In an interview with the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dr. Mahmoud Al-Rumhi, a candidate on the Hamas list, explained: "Hamas is aware of the changes that have occurred in the region and in the world, and is therefore proposing an interim solution. This solution is not new. I first mentioned it in 1988, and referred to it again in the 90s. The shahid Sheikh Ahmad Yassin repeated these statements in 2002 and 2003, and announced that [Hamas] is willing to accept an interim solution based on the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in the territories that were occupied in 1967, removal of the settlements, and return of the refugees - all this in return for a hudna [truce] of limited duration. This does not stand in contradiction to [the fact that] we have a strategic position..." [3]

Another candidate on the Hamas list, Ahmad Bahr, repeated at a Gaza election rally that "Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders as an interim solution, but without giving up a single grain of Palestinian soil, without recognizing the State of Israel, and on condition that Hamas retain the right to possess arms." [4]

Hamas Election Platform Does Not Include Eradication of Israel

The Hamas election platform includes a declaration of intent to "eliminate the occupation," but does not mention the eradication of Israel. Upon the publication of the platform, there were various reactions to the omission of this objective, which is often mentioned by Hamas and appears in its charter. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri vehemently denied that there was any contradiction between the platform and Hamas's charter: "The platform refers to details and implementation methods for the next four years, while the charter lays out our permanent strategic views."

Salah Al-Bardawil, another candidate on the Hamas list, stated that "Hamas has never proposed to change or amend its charter. The platform presents a realistic view that reflects Hamas's goals for the next four years. Had we spoken of eliminating and eradicating Israel within this period, we would have been be deceiving our people and repeating false slogans. But this does not stand in contradiction [to the fact that] we place emphasis on the elimination and non-recognition of Israel." [5]

Muaman Bseiso, columnist for the Hamas weekly Al-Risala, wrote: "The charter is not the Koran, which is unchangeable. I believe that one day it will be changed or replaced according to the views of the Hamas, in order to realize the national interests of the Palestinians." [6]

On Negotiating With Israel

Hamas candidate for the Jerusalem area Muhammad Abu Teir said, "Negotiations [with Israel] conducted by Hamas would be more effective than the negotiations that have been held for the past 10 years without achieving anything." [7] On the following day, Abu Teir denied having made this statement.

Dr. Mahmoud Al-Rumhi said that "a distinction must be made between negotiations with the occupation towards a political [settlement], and day-to-day contacts regarding services [for the population]. For example, after Hamas won [the municipal elections] in Qalqiliya, it naturally had dealings with the municipality of [the Israeli town of] Kfar Saba regarding water, electricity and sewage [management]." [8]

However, in an interview on Al-Jazeera TV aired January 23, 2006, Khaled Mash'al stated that Hamas would not negotiate with Israel. Likewise, Isma'il Haniyya said: "Negotiations with Israel are not on the Hamas agenda, since past negotiations between Israel and the PA have been unsuccessful. Hamas will not repeat attempts that have [already] failed. [Moreover,] the stronger side always has an advantage in negotiations." [9]

In contrast, senior Hamas member Mahmoud Al-Zahar said at a press conference: "There is no prohibition on negotiating with Israel, but the political crime is to sit with the Israelis, exchange smiles, and say that there is progress, when in reality there is no progress... If Hamas wins [the elections], it will be able to come up with thousands of appropriate ways [to hold negotiations], provided that the Israeli side has anything to offer in terms of stopping the aggression, withdrawal [from territories], and release of prisoners." Al-Zahar mentioned as an example the indirect contacts between Israel and Hizbullah via German mediation regarding the release of Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails. "Negotiations with Israel," he said, "have brought the Palestinians only destruction, martyrdom and injuries, in addition to economic disaster." [10]

Resistance is Hamas's Strategic Policy

Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri said: "The resistance plan is Hamas's strategic policy until [we achieve] the complete liberation of our land... Hamas wants to reinforce the option of jihad and resistance in order to ensure the release of the prisoners, the return of the refugees, and the restoration of all the other rights that [the Palestinians] have been robbed of." [11]

At an assembly in Damascus, Khaled Mash'al said: "This assembly holds special significance, since it takes place after Gaza was liberated against the will of the Zionist aggressors. Who knows when we will celebrate the liberation of Gaza, Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, and all the rest of Palestine. Hamas, together with the Palestinian people, will implement its policy using a new language, without feeling any urge to meet with the enemy or negotiate with it. Was Gaza liberated through negotiations?! Hamas will continue to wield its weapons and to [claim] its right to resist. Resistance will [continue to] be a strategic option until the last piece of Palestinian land is liberated, and until the last refugee returns." [12]

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 21, 2006.

[2] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), January 22, 2006.

[3] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 19, 2006.

[4] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 22, 2006.

[5], January 14, 2006.

[6], January 14, 2006.

[7] Al-Ayyam (PA), January 16, 2006.

[8] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 19, 2006.

[9] Al-Ayyam (PA), January 22, 2006.

[10] Al-Ayyam (PA), January 24, 2006.

[11] Al-Risala (Gaza), January 16, 2006. On a different occasion, Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said that his movement "has no choice but to kidnap Israeli soldiers in order to negotiate their exchange with prisoners held in Israel." Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 19, 2006.

[12], December 31, 2005.

Share this Report: