Australia/Israel Review

Scribblings: Hamas “Hudna” offer revealed

May 29, 2012 | Tzvi Fleischer

Tzvi Fleischer

Hamas “Hudna” offer revealed

A lot of international commentators have been taken in by Hamas claims to be ready to accept a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders as part of a deal with Israel (though most commentators gloss over the fact that Hamas always also demands a Palestinian “right of return” – which would lead to Israel’s demographic destruction.) And Hamas has made enough ambiguous noises about accepting the results of a referendum of all Palestinians on a peace deal that some have rushed to argue that Hamas will agree to a permanent two-state peace if such a referendum can be passed.

But Hamas’ deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk made it very clear in an interview with the New York-based Forward published on April 27 that Hamas is saying nothing of the kind. He did say that any Israel-Palestinian agreement must be ratified by a referendum, stating “All of the Palestinians should vote about this.” But he was explicit that even if such a referendum passes, it will still be merely a temporary ceasefire – a hudna in Arabic – to Hamas. He said “When we reach the agreement, our point of view is, it’s a hudna.” Abu Marzouk went on to mention ten years as an appropriate time frame for such a ceasefire.

Moreover, asked what sort of an arrangement a “hudna” would entail, he replied, “What’s the relationship between Israel and Syria and Lebanon right now?” The answer of course is a legal state of war, with closed and fortified borders, no trade, no diplomats, and arms build-ups on each side. Moreover, there has been a continuous sponsorship by Syria of groups actively engaged in violence against Israel, and Lebanon’s hosting of such groups, with attacks across the Lebanon-Israel border when those groups deem it appropriate.

In other words, what Abu Marzouk was offering Israel in exchange for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders and the impossible right of return (he was quite clear about this) was essentially a continuation of the current situation. Today, in Gaza, Hamas acts much like Syria and Lebanon toward Israel – at war with Israel, refraining from direct fire by its own forces but often content to let others fire rockets, cooperating with them on and off, meanwhile preparing its own arms build-up for the next round of violence.

It’s true that the current situation is achieved by Israeli deterrence, not formal agreement. However, given that Hamas has always found excuses to break past arrangements when it suits their interests, all the territories plus the right of return seems an awfully steep price to expect Israel to pay for a mere signature validating what is already occurring on the ground.

Abu Marzouk’s interview was clearly intended to be an attempt to reach out to Jews in an interview with a Jewish paper, yet he could offer Israel nothing of substance in exchange for the traditional Palestinian demands of the pre-1967 borders and the right of return. Hopefully, those who have been fooled before by Hamas spin about their hudna offer – which we now know amounts to Israel giving Palestinians all their demands in return for a temporary extension of the status quo – will now recognise that all the talk about Hamas “moderation” is just so much eyewash.

The Myth of the One-State Danger

Those, both in Israel and abroad, who demand Israel find a way to make a two-state peace immediately and virtually at any price usually have one core argument why this must be done so urgently, despite the obvious obstacles and dangers. They argue that, despite Palestinian internal division, Hamas’ open rejectionism, Fatah’s apparent unwillingness to call the conflict over even for a good deal, huge gaps on vitally important issues like the claimed “right of return” and increasing regional instability, Israel must somehow make peace because otherwise a two-state solution will become impossible and a “one-state solution” will instead result, destroying either Israel’s Jewish or democratic character.

The truth, however, is that this claim has always been farfetched – there is almost no scenario where one can imagine a “one-state solution” happening without the consent of both parties. This was lucidly pointed out recently by veteran American Middle East mediator Aaron David Miller. Miller, who served various US Administrations as a senior point man on Arab-Israel negotiations for more than two decades, wrote of this claim in al-Monitor (May 16):

This is one of the greatest illusions or delusions of all. Nobody really believes it; Indeed, it’s useful  for some Palestinians and even some Israelis to vent frustration and threaten the complacent with talk of millions of Palestinians populating the Jewish state. The only problem is that it’s highly unlikely to materialise; and isn’t supported by any reasonable or rational forecast.

The argument seems to be that Palestinians denied a state of their own would demand citizenship in an Israeli one. This just doesn’t add up. What would be the legal or political justification for such a claim be? Why would Israel accept it or the international community, the United States and others, acquiesce to it?…

A million plus Palestinians from Gaza who now exist in their own Hamas controlled mini enclave won’t go that way. As for the 2.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank, more likely the Israelis would draw a boundary and let what was left of the PA function in its own mini-enclave capacity.  It’s messy, if not untenable.  But the notion that the inexorable alternative is one big Israel, West Bank state where millions of Palestinians become citizens is a silly one; and lacks even a compelling rationale as an intended or unintended outcome.




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