After Fatah and Hamas announced a Palestinian national reconciliation deal on April 23, including plans to establish a unity government within five weeks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Fatah officials tried to argue that the deal means that Hamas would de facto recognise Israel, at least within pre-67′ borders. The new Palestinian unity government will meet the international community’s conditions (as outlined by the Quartet- the EU, UN, Russia and US), they argued, which Hamas has repeatedly rejected, and Hamas will have to get on board with this. According to the Times of Israel, a senior Palestinian official highlighted that Fatah ”won’t agree to complete the reconciliation process” unless Hamas agrees that the new government ”accepts the two state solution – Israel and Palestine – along the 1967 lines”.
Israeli officials were, understandably, very sceptical. They have suspended the Middle East peace talks in response to the Fatah-Hamas agreement, explaining that Israel could not negotiate with a Palestinian leadership which includes Hamas’ representatives unless Hamas clearly accepts the Quartet conditions – recognition of Israel, a repudiation of violence as a means to advance its goals, and agreement to honour all existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Events quickly proved that Israelis had good reasons for scepticism over the alleged Hamas change of heart. It quickly became clear that Hamas had some very different ideas and views regarding the unity government, and very publicly contradicted the Fatah claims.
Firstly, Hamas remains completely committed to its refusal to recognise Israel in any borders. This was clearly articulated by Hamas’ Political bureau deputy chief Moussa Abu Marzouk, who said in Gaza that Hamas only agreed “temporarily” to a Palestinian state on land conquered by Israel in 1967, “without recognising the Zionist entity.”
Abu Marzouk also added that Hamas never agreed to accept the Quartet conditions, and that “We have rejected and continue to reject any conditions detracting from Palestinian rights,” which include “the right of return” and “liberation.” One can only conclude that if Israel is not recognised and the agreement to a Palestinian state is only temporary, the commitment to “liberation” applies to the rest of the land, i.e. Israel proper.
Abu-Marzouk wasn’t the only one to object to Fatah’s claims about the new unity government. Veteran senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar emphasised that the creation of a unity government will not affect Hamas’ views or its operation. In an interview with the Egyptian newspaper Alyoum Sabaa, he argued that:
“The reconciliation deal will not change Hamas at all, and will not bring the organization to recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
He described the PA’s security cooperation with Israel as “shameful,” and highlighted that Hamas intends to fully maintain its own security forces, and keep them independent of PA control, as they will not be bound to follow instructions from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. This naturally raises serious questions regarding the new government’s ability to prevent terror acts against Israel and shelling of Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip. Al- Zahar did not even try to hide Hamas’ intentions to keep its military wing – Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades – in operation, as he stated that:
“Nobody will touch the security sections in Gaza. No one will be able to touch one person from the military group. Nobody asked for that.”
Even Hamas leaders in the West Bank contradicted Fatah’s statements. Hassan Youssef, for example, rejected the notion of recognition of Israel by the new government. He said:
”The [Abbas-led] Palestine Liberation Organisation is the one that negotiates with Israel and recognised Israel. It is not required of every Palestinian party to recognise Israel …”
In an interview for the Independent, he also repudiated any claims that Hamas might accept the Quartet’s conditions. He asked in return: ‘‘are the quartet conditions the Quran? Are they the New Testament?” before adding that: “These conditions must change because they are unjust … These conditions are unacceptable to us.” This, of course, includes a blunt refusal to renounce violence and limit “resistance” against Israel to non-violent means.
”We as a Palestinian people whose land is occupied and whose holy places are occupied have the right to defend ourselves,” he claimed, “We agree with popular resistance but all options are before the Palestinian people.”
Hamas leader Khaled Mash’al also made comments completely contradicting Fatah’s claims that Hamas will comply with the international community’s conditions. He reaffirmed Hamas’ commitment to holy war against Israel by violent means: “Our path is resistance and the rifle, and our choice is jihad,” he proclaimed in his first public appearance since the deal was struck, adding “there is no past or future without jihad and resistance. Jihad is our path.”
His view of the deal seems miles away from Abbas’ representations to the Western media. Instead of a unified Palestinian position in support of a two-state solution in compliance with previous agreements to be sought by non-violent means, Mash’al sees the deal as an opportunity to move away from the peace talks with Israel, and instead form a new strategy that would lead to the “liberation of our lands and holy sites and the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes.”
It is clear from these statements and comments by Hamas officials that the terrorist group is not planning on accepting the two-state solution, recognise Israel or even halt the violence against it, regardless of the developments in internal Palestinian politics. And their actions speak louder than words.
On Israel’s 66th independence day, Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades released an animated YouTube video in which the lyrics of the Israeli anthem “ha-Tikvah” (The Hope) were changed into threats of deportation and massacre. Hamas’ version, titled “Sof ha-Tikvah” (The End of Hope), describes the demise of Israel: the “Zionist” army is made of wax and will melt, all Jews will either be deported back to their “countries of origin” or if they are foolish enough to insist on staying, will “seal their fate” and end up “beneath the dust”, as Jerusalem will change its name to the Arabic “Bayt al-Maqdis” (ironically, “house of the temple”). The images are just as disturbing, and include a ship deporting Jews to Germany, and Palestinian gunmen with balaclavas guarding the roof of the Dome of the Rock, with a Palestinian flag on top, as an Israel flag is burning.
Even kids are not spared Hamas’ belligerent messages. On May 2nd, Hamas TV broadcasted a children’ show called Tomorrow’s Pioneers in which the genocide of all Jews was directly promoted children by the presenters. Note that they did even bother to use euphemisms such as “Zionists” or “Israelis” – the call was for the killing of “all the Jews.”
During the program, the host, Rawan, had an interesting conversation with a young girl named Tulin. Tulin had the reasonable dream of becoming a police officer, like her uncle. However, apparently in Gaza the duties of officers of the law are very different to what is common in the rest of the world:
Child host: “OK, so what does a policeman do?”
Nahul (an adult in a giant bee costume): “He catches thieves, and people who make trouble.”
Child host: “And shoots Jews. Right?”
Child host: “You want to be like him?”
Child host: “Allah willing, when you grow up.”
Girl: “So that I can shoot Jews.”
[Nahul the bee claps his hands]
Child host: “All the Jews? All of them?”
Child host: “Good.”
Given Hamas’ clear rejection of the Quartet’s conditions, and especially it’s refusal to pledge to abstain from violent “resistance”, it will be impossible for Israel to negotiate with its representatives, or with a government which includes Hamas as a key component. After all, how can peace be negotiated with a group that urges its children to aspire to grow up to be “good cops” that shoot “all the Jews”?