Hamas Leader in Gaza: Don't Expect Anything From Trump

'The forces of resistance are our power,' says Ismail Haniyeh ahead of President Abbas' White House visit.

Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh, left and Khaled Meshal, center, meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas
Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh, left and Khaled Meshal, center, meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, Qatar, October 28, 2016. Photo handout / PA President's Office and Andalou Agency

In advance of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday, senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has cautioned against any expectations of progress from the meeting.

"The forces of resistance are our power and respect and don't expect to get anything from Trump," declared Haniyeh on Sunday, whose Hamas movement has refused to recognize Israel and has engaged in repeated large-scale military confrontations with Israel, most recently in 2014.

A day earlier, one of Abbas' closest advisers told Haaretz that the Palestinian president believes there is a "historic opportunity" to reach a peace agreement under Trump's leadership, and that he is looking forward to forging a "strategic partnership" with the new American president.

At a press briefing at the White House in mid-April, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump and Abbas would discuss ways to revive the peace process and to ultimately find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The two leaders spoke over the phone in March and agreed to meet and discuss ways to revive the peace process. The call was the first contact between them, coming after complaints by Palestinian officials that they had been unable to establish contact with the Trump administration. A senior Palestinian official said the conversation was positive and lasted 10 minutes. The official added that Trump told Abbas that he knows Abbas is committed to peace.

When it comes to Hamas, Haniyeh said the head of the movement's political bureau, Khaled Meshal, will present the group's new policy platform on Monday, In a preview of what it contains, Haniyeh said: "The new document does not do harm to our principles or strategy." This includes the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem and the right of return to Israel of Palestinian refugees. The commitment to the principle of "Palestinian unity and the forces of resistance" remain, Haniyeh added. The policy changes, he said, relate to current regional developments.

In March it was reported that the new platform would include acceptance in principle of a Palestine state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the 1967 borders but not recognition of Israel.

The Islamist Hamas group wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, controlled by Abbas' Fatah movement, in 2007 and all efforts since to reconcile the two Palestinian factions have faltered. The Palestinian Authority recently stepped up the pressure on the Hamas government, announcing that it would institute a 30 percent cut in the payment of wages to Palestinian Authority employees in Gaza, many of whom have not been actually performing work since the Hamas takeover.

On Thursday, the Palestinian Authority notified Israel that it would no longer pay for electricity that Israel supplies to the strip, thereby exacerbating already severe power shortages there. Haniyeh called the Palestinian Authority's sanctions against Gaza an attempt to present the PA to Trump as an opponent of terrorism. 

"In recent months, we have taken a series of decisions to advance the reconciliation, but these have been rejected in Ramallah," Haniyeh said. "In the Palestinian Authority, they need to understand and not waste time on punitive measures such as tightening the siege and cutting salaries, because Gaza will remain strong."

Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza, Israel has imposed a blockade against the territory, greatly limiting the movement of people and merchandise between the strip and Israel. The current anti-Islamist government in Egypt has imposed its own limitations on movement across its border with Gaza.