Israel Blasts Hamas' New Charter: Group Still Dedicated to War With Israel

Hamas' new political charter, to be announced later today, still expected to reject Israel's right to exist and to back 'armed struggle'

Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal (L) and movement's Gazan leader Ismail Haniyeh (R) wave to the crowd upon Meshal's arrival in the southern Gaza Strip, December 7, 2012.
Reuters

Israel blasted Hamas' new charter, published on Monday, saying it did not represent any real change by the Gaza group.

Despite initial delays, Hamas presented its new charter in Qatar on Monday evening, and voiced support for the possibility of a Palestinian state along 1967 borders, considered a moderation of its position. 

"Hamas' document is smoke screen. We see Hamas continuing to invest all of its resources not just in preparing for war with Israel, but also in educating the children of Gaza to want to destroy Israel," a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

"The day Hamas stops digging tunnels and diverts its resources to civilian infrastructure and stop educating children to hate Israelis, that would be real change," the statement said.

Hamas was expected to present the charter later Monday, though it later said it was delaying the announcement after the Qatari hotel the event was supposed to be held at canceled.

Earlier, David Keyes, a spokesman for Netanyahu, said "Hamas is attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed... They dig terror tunnels and have launched thousands upon thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians," he said. "This is the real Hamas."

New charter

Though the document’s contents haven’t yet been officially released, Hamas sources have reported its main provisions in recent weeks. These provisions, they say, summarize positions enunciated throughout the years by senior Hamas officials, including the group’s founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

The new charter will accept the idea of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, but without recognizing Israel. According to Hamas sources, it will assail the Zionist enterprise as an aggressive project built on robbing the Palestinians of their rights. But in contrast to the organization’s original 1988 charter, it will call for a battle against Israel rather than a war of extermination against all Jews.

The document, which contains 11 chapters with 41 articles, will also effectively declare Hamas’ independence from its parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood. It does not mention any affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood and asserts that Hamas, as a Palestinian liberation movement, will not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

It is also expected to recognize nonviolent popular struggle as a legitimate tool for fighting the occupation, rather than armed struggle only.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Gaza-based deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, said at an event in the Strip on Sunday that “the new document will undermine neither our principles nor our strategy. Jerusalem, the right of return, Palestinian unity and the resistance forces are fundamental principles. The changes relate to regional developments, and suit the era.”

Hamas sources said the organization decided to officially unveil the document now because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and his planned White House meeting later this week with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported over the weekend that the presentation of the new charter at Monday’s press conference will be the last major step taken by Khaled Meshal, the current head of Hamas’ political bureau, prior to his planned resignation. Hamas is expected to announce Meshal’s replacement a few days later, and Haniyeh is widely expected to get the job. If so, he will divide his time between Gaza and Qatar.

But despite Hamas’ efforts to depict the unveiling of the new charter as an event of great importance, the organization recognizes that Gaza residents’ main concern right now is the punitive measures the PA has taken against Hamas, which have greatly worsened Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.

“The PA must understand and not waste time on punitive steps like tightening the siege and cutting salaries, because Gaza will remain strong,” Haniyeh insisted in his speech on Sunday. And if the sanctions on Gaza are meant to strengthen Abbas’ hand in his meeting with Trump by showing him taking a strong stance against terror, Haniyeh continued, “I say the resistance forces are our strength and our honor, and don’t expect to get anything from Trump.”