After some initial delays, Hamas presented its new charter on Monday, as Israel was marking its Independence Day. As was expected, Hamas' new charter accepts the possibility of a Palestinian state along the 1967 "Green Line" border, considered by some a moderation of the Gaza group's position.
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Israel responded to the charter even before Hamas' press conference, saying it did not represent any real change by the Gaza group.
Hamas was expected to present the charter at the Intercontinental hotel in the Qatari capital of Doha, but the hotel canceled, prompting Hamas to scramble to find an alternative location, eventually holding the event at the Doha Sheraton.
Hamas' leader in exile, Khaled Meshal, said at the press conferences that "Hamas objects to any plan offering an alternative homeland" for the Palestinians. He said the group "will not give up any parcel of Palestinian land and strives to liberate all of the Palestinian lands." However, in a sign of alleged moderation, he said "Hamas is willing to negotiate a sovereign and independent state with Jerusalem as its capital" as the basis for a deal with Israel.
Meshal also said that "Hamas' struggle is not with Jews or their faith, but is a struggle against Zionism and its agressions."
The group also vowed "not to recognize the Zionist entity," saying that "opposition to the occupation through any means is a basic right that includes an armed struggle."
He also said the group would not give up on the right of return for Palestinians who fled or were exiled when Israel was established in 1948, a key point of contention in negotiations for Israelis and Palestinians.
Israel responded by saying that "Hamas' document is a 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.
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."
Ahead of the charter's publication Hamas sources had in recent weeks reported its main provisions. These provisions, they say, summarize positions enunciated throughout the years by senior Hamas officials, including the group’s founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
In contrast to the organization’s original 1988 charter, it was expected to call for a battle against Israel rather than a war of extermination against all Jews.
The document, which contains 11 chapters with 41 articles, was also expected to 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.
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.