Wed, May 03, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Hamas unveils new policy on Israel

AFP, DOHA

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal gestures as he announces a new policy document in Doha, Qatar, on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

Hamas on Monday unveiled a new policy document easing its stance on Israel after having called for years for the country’s destruction, as the Palestinian Islamist movement seeks to improve its international standing.

The move came ahead of a first face-to-face meeting today between US President Donald Trump and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party remains deeply divided from Hamas.

The document was unveiled in the Qatari capital, Doha, by exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who is due to step down soon after serving his maximum of two terms.

Meshaal said he hoped the new US administration would “act with more seriousness on the Palestinian cause and change its misconceptions about the Palestinian people.”

The press conference was also broadcast live in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave controlled by Hamas, and the document was posted on the movement’s Web site.

“We in Hamas believe that renewal and reinvention is a necessity,” Meshaal said at the event in a Doha hotel.

While the new document does not amount to recognition of Israel as demanded by the international community, Hamas officials said, it formally softens its stance in a few key areas.

Hamas leaders have long spoken of the more limited aim of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without explicitly setting this out in their charter.

However, after years of internal debate, the new document formally accepts the idea of a state in the territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.

The document also says its struggle is not against Jews because of their religion, but against Israel as an occupier.

“We are not fighting against the Jews because they are Jewish,” Meshaal said.

“We are waging this struggle against the aggression of Zionists,” he said.

However, the original 1988 charter will not be dropped, just supplemented, in a move some analysts see as a way of maintaining the backing of hardliners.

Asked if Hamas would negotiate directly with Israelis, Meshaal said: “Our policy is we will not engage in direct negotiations with the Israelis, because nothing in the conditions and circumstances convinces us that any conclusions can be reached.”

Direct talks is “a process, it’s a game we will not fall for it,” he said.

The new document also continues to speak of liberating historic Palestine, including areas that are today part of Israel.

Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the US and the EU, and the new document is aimed in part at easing its international isolation.

One Hamas leader, Ahmed Yusef, earlier said that the updated charter was “more moderate, more measured and would help protect us against accusations of racism, anti-Semitism and breaches of international law.”

It also does not refer to the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Hamas was closely linked when formed.

However, Israel was not convinced, with David Keye, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying: “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,” Keyes said in a statement, referring to rockets fired from Gaza and tunnels used to carry out attacks.

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