On May 1, 2017 in Doha, a week before he stepped down as Hamas political bureau head, Khaled Mash'al announced the release of Hamas's new policy document. This document has been very harshly criticized by the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, which rejected it and expressed suspicion about its credibility and about the timing of its release. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud 'Abbas forcefully attacked it, stating that it included many contradictions and thus was not worthy of serious attention. PA and Fatah officials, and articles in the PA press, likewise criticized the document and its contradictions, accusing Hamas of attempting to mislead the public and of posing as a democratic, peace-seeking movement when it is no such thing, and of seeking to eradicate the PLO and take its place. It was also claimed that the document's release – just prior to 'Abbas's White House visit – was aimed at sabotaging the visit.
The Hamas document was also criticized in the Jordanian, Egyptian, and Saudi press, which are known for their support for the Arab peace initiative – of which the section on recognizing Israel if it withdraws from the 1967 territories has so far been rejected by Hamas. Senior writers and columnists in the state presses of Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have, like the PA, argued that the document is full of contradictions that are difficult to resolve. They expressed doubt regarding the credibility of Hamas's intentions, and stated that the document was aimed strictly at improving the organization's situation in light of the changes in the region and in the world that do not benefit Hamas, and that it must also take actual steps as well as bolder decisions.
Khaled Mash'al and Hamas's new policy document (image:nwatan.ps, May 3, 2017)
This paper will review criticism of Hamas's new policy document by the PA and by the Jordanian, Egyptian, and Saudi press.
PA President 'Abbas: The Hamas Document Includes Both Statements And Their Opposites; We Won't Take It Seriously
In an interview with the Russian RT channel, PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas said of the Hamas document: "This document includes many contradictions, and therefore it is unclear. In 1988, we [i.e. the PLO] made clear decisions. We said that we recognize the legitimate international [decisions]. That was it. This meant [UN] resolutions 242 and 338 and all those resolutions. We have adhered to this to this day. But when you write something and its opposite in a single document, people will not accept it, and therefore neither we nor the international community will take this document seriously."
Fatah: Hamas Must Apologize To The PLO And The Palestinian People
PA and Fatah officials expressed similar criticism of the document, even calling on Hamas to apologize to the PLO and the Palestinian people for adopting, 30 years later, a PLO position for which Hamas had accused the PLO of betrayal, and because of which it had even caused a schism among the Palestinians. They stated that Hamas was trying to clean up its image in the international community, while at the same time oppressing its people.
Fatah spokesman Osama Al-Qawasmeh said: "Hamas's consent to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders as an agreed-upon formula and as implementation of international law is absolutely identical to the position taken by all the [PLO] factions in 1988; it was not [only] Fatah's position but a position agreed upon by all the [PLO] factions." He continued: "If it took Hamas 30 years to [stop] using our position against us, how long will it take for it to understand that national unity and an end to the schism are better for the Palestinian people? And what pretext will Hamas now give the Palestinian street for continuing the coup and the schism?" He also said that Mash'al had aimed his statements and his speech [on May 1] at the entire world except for the Palestinian people, but had not answered the question that everyone was waiting for him to answer – that is, how to restore national unity.
Al-Qawasmeh even demanded that Hamas apologize to the PLO: "Hamas must apologize to the PLO for the 30 years in which it accused [the PLO] of betrayal and heresy and for causing the grave schism in the Palestinian street, the jewel in the crown of which was the Hamas coup [against the PLO in the Gaza Strip] that tarnished the image of the Palestinian people, of its struggle, and of its just cause."
In an additional statement, Al-Qawasmeh noted: "The new Hamas document has nothing new in it except for a collection of contradictions."
PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani said: "Hamas presents itself to the world as an open democratic organization abiding by international legitimacy and law, and as interested in peace, while to Palestinian society it sends a message of terrorism and suppression of the fundamental freedoms of all." He noted: "There is a chasm between Hamas's political discourse and its actions in the field, and the discourse that it uses in its new policy document is aimed at allowing it to integrate with the changes affecting the world and the region." The document, he added, is a response to the demands of Hamas's allies in the region so that they will be able "to market it in the framework of its efforts to be an alternative to the PLO or to be a side on the regional equation." He also said that the timing of the document's release – just prior to 'Abbas's White House visit – was in no way coincidental, but deliberate: "Hamas's disregard of the issue of national reconciliation in its document shows that this issue does not top its agenda and will not be part of its policy any time soon."
Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub told the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat: "We welcome the development in the Hamas movement, but we had hoped that it would submit the document to President Mahmoud 'Abbas for him to take it with him to the White House – not [submit it] to the Turkish foreign minister. Had Hamas [truly] sought a partnership with the PLO, it would have submitted its document to the international community by means of the PLO head ['Abbas] – but it aspires to be an alternative to the PLO."
Editorial In PA Daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: Hamas Aims To Eradicate The PLO
Similar claims were made in articles in the PA press, which likewise stated that the release of the document just prior to 'Abbas's visit to Washington and his meeting with U.S. President Trump was meant to sabotage that visit. In its May 5, 2017 editorial, the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida wrote: "We have said, and the facts and signs all indicate, that Hamas was never a resistance movement in the true sense of the word, and that in the history of the modern Palestinian national struggle it has not been present at all in the paths of the armed struggle. (The suicide operations that were carried out in the days when the [PA's] political struggle against the occupation escalated so that the transitional sections of the Oslo [Accords] would be precisely implemented had nothing to do with this struggle)... It is no accident at all that this announcement [of the Hamas policy document] comes on the eve of [PA] President Abu Mazen's [i.e. Mahmoud Abbas's] meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, during which President Abu Mazen will present the perception of the Palestinian [Authority] with regard to a just peace and its willingness to actualize it on all levels in the framework of a solution that will respect the historic rights of our people... The aim of [Hamas's] announcement is to market [Hamas] and sabotage Abu Mazen's visit to Washington...
"Hamas's policy document... exposes the essential truth regarding [Hamas's] hidden political plan, [which is] a plan for rule by the Muslim Brotherhood that seeks nothing but to eradicate the PLO, the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people..."
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida Columnist: Hamas's Talk About A State In 1967 Borders Contravenes The Situation On The Ground
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida columnist 'Omar Hilmi Al-Ghoul wrote: "On the face of it, anyone following [Hamas] might think that the document includes a policy innovation that is manifested, first and foremost, in its agreement to the establishment of a state within the June 4, 1967 borders. In this context, many of those following [Hamas] have praised this 'development,' seeing it as an essential turning point in Hamas's political track. But this is not true, because various Hamas leaders, among them Khaled Mash'al himself, have announced dozens of times that they agree to a state in the June 4, 1967 borders, and have even agreed to a state with temporary borders.
"The worst thing is that it [Hamas] is continuing to this very day to cling to [its] emirate in the Gaza Strip. Thus, the talk about a state in the 1967 borders actually contradicts the reality on the ground. Had Hamas been truly, and in principle, interested in [implementing] what is stated in the document, it would have changed its political behavior, and agreed to return the legitimate rule of the southern provinces [i.e. give the Gaza Strip to the PA]."
Former PA Minister: The Hamas Document Contradicts Itself
Ashraf Al-Ajrami, a former PA minister for prisoner affairs and a columnist for the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, described the Hamas document as an "important step" and as "a positive development that may serve the [Palestinian] national plan," but also highlighted the contradictions in it. He wrote: "The language of Hamas's new plan allows it to say one thing and its opposite [at the same time]: It agrees to a state in the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, and at the same time says that it wants a greater Palestine, from the sea to the river, from Ras Naqura to Rafah. It is certainly using moderate language to foreign elements in order to prove that it has essentially changed, and at the same time using extremist language to its members and its public, in order to emphasize that it has not compromised on its positions.
"Essentially, there are real changes in the movements' positions, as agreeing to a state in the 1976 borders implies recognition of the two-state solution, even though [Hamas] continues to say that it does not recognize Israel and to cling to all the land of the homeland. This can present it in a flexible light to some elements."
Jordanian Writers: The Hamas Document Is Not Enough – Hamas Needs To Make Additional Concessions And To Recognize Israel
As noted, similar criticism of the document appeared in the Jordanian press; articles stated that Hamas was using doublespeak in its document and that Hamas aimed to sabotage 'Abbas's visit to the White House. One writer, a former Jordanian minister and diplomat, even called on Hamas to make greater concessions and to recognize Israel.
To The International Community, Hamas Talks Of A State In The 1967 Borders; To The Arabs, It Says There Is No Compromise On The Land Of Palestine
Fahd Al-Fanek, the former editor of the Jordanian state daily Al-Rai and today a senior columnist for the daily, wrote: "The front-page headlines indicated that Hamas has agreed to a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders. This is considered a compromise for nothing in return, because the state to which Hamas has agreed is not being offered to it.
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"If we leave aside the newspaper headlines and get down to the details in the inside pages [of the newspapers], we will find that there is nothing new in Hamas's statements at the [May 1] political conference in Qatar that was headed by Khaled Mash'al. The agreeing to a state in the 1967 borders is the part of Hamas's announcement that is directed at the international community and Israel, while the part directed at the Palestinian and Arab citizen says that there is no compromise on any part of the land of Palestine for whatever reason, under any conditions, and [despite any] pressure [on it], and no matter how long the occupation continues. Hamas rejects any alternative to the complete liberation of Palestine, from the sea to the river...
"Israel will take advantage of Hamas's declaration in order to prove its position that the two-state solution was not rejected by Israel but by the Palestinians, and that a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders is only a temporary formula with the anticipation of absolutely eradicating Israel from the map later on... Hamas did what it thought it would take to thwart the mission of PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas in Washington, which is backed by [resolutions] of the [last] Arab summit [that again adopted] the two-state solution. It would not be strange for Hamas to agree to a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders because it has already agreed to a state within the borders of the Gaza Strip and signed a hudna with no expiration date with Israel, which it calls a calm [tahdiya]..."
Hamas Must Make Additional Concessions And Recognize Israel
Former Jordanian minister and diplomat Bassam Al-'Amoush wrote: "Hamas is talking with us today – after its 30 years of existence and in the harshest of conditions, in which the Arab body is torn to shreds and destroyed – about a [Palestinian] state [in the territories of] the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Can this happen [while giving Israel] nothing in exchange?... Are the Arab countries referring to peace according to the logic that Hamas is discussing – that is, that the Zionists relinquish the [West] Bank and the [Gaza] Strip while Hamas retains the right to the 1948 territories?... It is not possible to agree to only half of the truth, because all the negotiations [conducted] worldwide [throughout] history and [that will be conducted] in the future mention concessions by the sides so that, in the best case scenario, they meet in the middle...
"In all honesty, it will not help Hamas to present itself as believing in striving for peach and political activity as long as it does not make concessions, as Fatah and the PLO have... The specific compromise that Hamas must make is to recognize Israel. Without this [move], it will be impossible for it to join the Madrid peace club. Hamas must choose between the path of the PLO and the path of the resistance, because as of now, these two paths do not cross."
Fears That Hamas Has Received Promises For A Palestinian State In Gaza Territory Alone And For Taking Fatah's Place
Saleh Al-Qallab, former Jordanian information minister and columnist for the government Al-Rai daily, wrote: "Hamas hastened, in its recently published document, to adopt everything it had rejected for over 30 years, the most important of which is agreement to the establishment of the longed-for Palestinian state in the 1967 borders... The question that is asked again and again by the Palestinians and everywhere else is: What are the reasons for Hamas's unsurprising awakening, which came after long preparation? I wonder whether the reason for this is promises [that Hamas has] received from Arab and international elements that it will inherit [the administration of] the entire Palestinian arena and take the position of Fatah in this arena. There is information about moves in which some of the Arabs and Muslim states concerned are involved, [to advance] a solution to the dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis that is not the solution of the Oslo Accords... The great fear is that this proposed solution will end up [achieving] a Palestinian statelet with clipped wings, with a few border adjustments, according [to the plan] that the Israelis have presented again and again as an alternative to the state in the 1967 borders to which the PLO has clung, [which includes both] the West Bank and the strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital."
Egyptian Columnists: We Don't Trust Hamas; It Must Sever Ties With The Muslim Brotherhood
In Egypt too, whose relations with Hamas in recent years have been very tense because of Hamas's affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) which is banned there, columnists in the government newspapers attacked the Hamas document for its doublespeak and contradictions. They said that in contrast to the reports and expectations, the document includes no explicit renunciation of the MB by Hamas, and stressed that the movement must take bolder steps.
The Hamas Document Is Rife With Contradictions, Political Maneuvering, And Word Play
Muhammad Abu Al-Fadhl, columnist for the Egyptian Al-Ahram daily, wrote: "Anyone who has read the new Hamas document realizes that it was written in order to satisfy all sides and the political elements... When Khaled Mash'al announced... [the release of] his document, many agreed that its wording was ambiguous... Most of its 42 sections are rife with blatant double meaning. [Thus], the new document includes recognition of the June 4, 1967 borders, but no explicit recognition of Israel. It refers to the importance of political activity, but also of preserving the weapons of the resistance. The document ignores [Hamas's] adherence to affiliation with the MB, which was noted in its first document, of 1988 [that is, the Hamas Charter], but stresses its commitment to the [MB] organization's ideological framework. There is a long list of additional political maneuvering and word play [in it], by virtue of which any element can find what it wants in the document. [It contains] no backtracking from the previous document. Ultimately, [the new document] complements the old one, directly or indirectly...
"Obviously, the movement has not managed to fool the world, which was expecting a move that was compatible with the regional and international developments and would be consider the balance of power that is not in the Arabs' and Palestinians' favor and not in the favor of the forces with ideological positions like those of Hamas. But the movement acted in accordance with its history and with its roots, [which are embedded] in the Muslim Brotherhood... The document confirms that [Hamas] is a strictly self-serving movement that is amazingly inconsistent, allowing it to adapt to a highly complex atmosphere over the years and helping it to resolve contradictions that are difficult to resolve.
"Whoever followed the document from the beginning [of its drafting] to the announcement [of its release] in Doha know very well that its sections are packed with doublespeak in order to please both its friends and its rivals. The movement will find it difficult to please both, and soon it will have to take clear and specific stands on thorny issues..."
Likewise, Yusuf Ayyoub wrote in the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi': "At the end of the day, Hamas sought [with this document] to address everyone and please all elements – the Americans, the Israelis, and the Europeans – by agreeing to the form of a state that the PA had declared [that is, a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders], and at the same time telling the Palestinians and the Arab people that it is still the resistance movement that will not compromise on the weapons of the struggle against Israel until it establishes the greater Palestinian state...
"Thus, the content of the document was directed at everyone, and every person reads it as he wishes. What is important is that everyone is pleased with Hamas. Without a doubt, this is a game that was preceded by many preparations, until the document was finalized. But I believe that the document will only harm Hamas and damage its credibility and status – which are already shaky in Palestine and in the Arab world."
The Document Is Worthless For Egypt As Long As It Is Not Accompanied By Deeds And Hard Decisions
Al-Ahram columnist Hani 'Asal wrote: "The Hamas document does not constitute a strategic or even a tactical change – it is only a cosmetic change for a movement that began as a resistance [movement] and ended [as a movement] abandoned by both its rivals and its allies! All the statements that appear in the new Hamas document are only 'beautiful words' meant to create a sense of tranquility and optimism among some people – but this does not contradict the fact that there are a thousand reasons to view this document with suspicion, concern, and caution...
"Hamas's historic step, which came a million years too late, took place, suspiciously, at the same time as Gaza's political and economic isolation grew... The Hamas document will remain for Egypt a worthless piece of paper and nothing more, as long as it is not accompanied by deeds, by commitments, and by 'hard' – even very hard – decisions... some of which require a great deal of courage and concessions, not only cosmetics..."
Editor of Egyptian Government Daily: Hamas Must Now Apologize For Harming Sadat, Who Called For A Palestinian State
Dandarawi Al-Harawi, editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', which is affiliated with the Egyptian regime, wrote: "We expected Khaled Mash'al, who held the press conference in Doha, or Isma'il Haniya, who held a second press conference at the same time in Gaza, to address the UK news agency Reuters' [report] that the [new Hamas policy] document included a clear section on [Hamas's] renunciation of the Muslim Brotherhood. But we kept waiting, and the document included no such clear renunciation...
"A close examination of the document's sections reveals earthshaking surprises, including official recognition of the State of Israel and of the June 4, 1967 borders. The document contains no mention of the usual sentence of the Hamas movement [about] 'the destruction of Israel' – only a focus on accepting reality and recognizing the State of Israel...
"In light of the movement's recognition of the June 4, 1967 borders, it must apologize clearly and openly to Egypt and express deep regret for all the harm it caused it, and to the late president Anwar Al-Sadat, who was ahead of his time in demanding the establishment of a Palestinian state [alongside Israel]. Now, 40 years later, the movement accepts what Sadat [demanded]...
"What remains is a clear truth, and this is that Hamas is doing nothing for any general purpose or interest – only for [its own] purpose and aims. By means of this document, the movement has sown the seeds for the establishment of a state in Gaza, and as a result, has created a situation of three states on the Palestinian lands – the State of Israel, the State of Gaza, and the State of Ramallah – while the name Palestine is eradicated from the map..."
Saudi Writers: The Document Is Vague And Unclear, Acknowledges Hamas's Failure
Criticism of Hamas and its new policy document was also voiced in the Saudi press. Hassan Heidar, a columnist for the London-based Saudi Al-Hayat daily, described it as absurd that, on the one hand, Hamas agrees to a state in the 1967 borders, but on the other hand, it refuses to negotiate with Israel about this. He wrote: "In their new perspective [as set out in the policy document], all that the Hamas members did was to move to a new stage of obfuscation. According to Khaled Mash'al, the document – in which Hamas defined itself as 'an Islamic Palestinian liberation and resistance movement for whom the source of authority for laying its foundation, its goals, and its ways of action is Islam' – does not cancel out, [its 1988] founding charter...
"With regard to its agreement to a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders – it is unclear how Mash'al's statement that negotiations with the occupation is not [one of Hamas's] founding principles gibes with [the statement] that [Hamas] is using realpolitik. It is not clear with whom Hamas will negotiate over the establishment of the longed-for state except Israel, or whether any international element, or the UN, would be willing to sponsor negotiations of this kind if there is no mutual recognition between the two sides. [It is also not clear] whether Hamas wants the PA to continue with the treachery of which [Hamas] accuses it and negotiate over the borders of the state, and then to hand it over to [Hamas]. Is there a difference between negotiating with Israel and accepting a state in the 1967 borders from the national point of view or from the Islamic point of view, when the end result is the same? Why does Hamas today accept what it condemned the PLO leadership for 30 years ago?...
What is most astounding of all is that some top Hamas officials say that their adherence to the motto of 'liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea' by means of armed struggle is aimed at stopping the Islamic State and preventing its spread to Gaza. They forget that it was Hamas that paved the way for the emergence of [this] extremist organization and its ilk, by means of the extremist policy that it employed in the Gaza Strip and by means of its extremist ideas that it disseminated among the [Gaza] residents – ideas which constitute the main foundation of the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood..."
Mutlaq bin Sa'ud Al-Mutairi, columnist for the Saudi Al-Riyadh daily, wrote: "The Hamas leaders discovered... that [the movement's] political impact in Gaza had begun to fade, that President Mahmoud 'Abbas was working to bring Gaza back to the PA, and that the circumstances in the region and internationally were not favoring Hamas, particularly when some of the countries were taking advantage of these circumstances to use Hamas for military activity against Israel – activity that would serve them but not the Palestinian people...
"Therefore, Hamas realized that its legitimacy depended on its enemy [Israel] accepting it as a possible partner for negotiations. So the Hamas document is aimed at persuading Israel that Hamas is a partner for peace, and not an eternal enemy...
"The main importance of the document is that it is an indirect announcement by Hamas that it has lost everything, and wants to participate in everything."
 See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1313, Hamas Policy Document: Palestinian State In 1967 Borders Is 'National, Agreed-upon and Joint Formula' By Hamas, PLO – Yet Armed Struggle Will Continue, And Palestine Extends From River To Sea, May 5, 2017.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6899, Senior Saudi Analyst Khalid Al-Dakhil: Hamas's Refusal To Recognize Israel Contravenes Position Of All Arab States That Have Approved Arab Peace Initiative, April 30, 2017.
 Arabic.rt.com, May 8, 2017.
 Amad.ps/ar, May 1, 2017.
 Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), May 5, 2017.
 Wafa.ps, May 4, 2017.
 According to several reports in the Arab press, Turkey was involved in drafting the Hamas policy document. See e.g., Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 5, 2017.
 Al-Hayat (London), May 4, 2017.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), May 3, 2017.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 3, 2017.
 Al-Ayyam (PA), May 3, 2017.
 Al-Rai (Jordan), May 4, 2015
 Ammonnews.net, May 6, 2017.
 Al-Rai (Jordan), May 3, 2017.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 4, 2017.
 Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), May 3, 2017.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 3, 2017.
 Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), May 3, 2017.
 Al-Hayat (London), May 4, 2017.
 Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 3, 2017.