With Eye on Trump's Peace Efforts, Hamas to Unveil New Charter

Hamas expected to accept 1967 borders, drop call for war of extermination against Jews, but remains committed to fighting Israel

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (R) with the son of senior Hamas militant Mazen Fuqaha, sitting on the shoulders of Hamas Gaza Chief Yehya Al-Sinwar during a memorial service for Fuqaha, in Gaza City March 27, 2017.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (R) with the son of senior Hamas militant Mazen Fuqaha, sitting on the shoulders of Hamas Gaza Chief Yehya Al-Sinwar during a memorial service for Fuqaha, in Gaza City MarcCredit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Hamas will unveil its new charter Monday evening at a press conference in the Qatari capital of Doha, Hamas officials said Sunday.

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.”

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