Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

November 5, 2009

Hamas Leader Open to Future Relations with Israel

Filed under: Hamas,Palestinian politics — Carlton Cobb @ 7:49 pm

By Carlton Cobb, Team Coordinator for CNI’s Fall 2009 ‘political pilgrimage’

During a two-hour meeting with the CNI delegation in Damascus yesterday, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, told us:

It is not just to ask Palestinians to amend their charters without real change on the ground. Let us get our rights. Then we could discuss many issues, such as changing the Hamas and PLO charters or relations with Israel.

This came in response to a question posed by CNI Executive Director Helena Cobban, who asked him whether, in the context of Hamas winning the kind of peace agreement it seeks, the organization might consider amending its 1988 founding charter.

In the same round of questioning, Cobban had also asked whether Hamas would consider that the agreement it seeks, which is one based on Israel’s return to within its borders of June 4, 1967, would be understood by Hamas as one that ends the Palestinians’ decades-long conflict with Israel.

In other words, what is written in the Hamas charter seems under some circumstances to be negotiable. Meshaal’s answer was significant because it reflects a possible shift in Hamas strategy. The Hamas charter calls for a Palestinian state that replaces Israel and includes all of British Mandate-era Palestine.

Most Israelis equate this position with the destruction by force of Israel and, by extension, Jews. They argue that the Hamas position amounts to a call for a second Jewish Holocaust.

Meshaal’s statement demonstrated a willingness to accept Israel in the context of a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas, and the Palestine Liberation Organization before it, had previously emphasized the goal of replacing Israel by refusing to use the word “Israel” and instead using the term “Zionist entity,” implying that the state is illegitimate and temporary. Throughout our meeting, however, Meshaal chose to use the word “Israel” and almost never used the word “Zionism” or “Zionist.”

The last part of the statement quoted above demonstrates an implicit recognition of Israel, one of the three conditions that Israel and the Quartet have imposed on Hamas before agreeing to recognize it.

It is important to note that the PLO also held the same position of non-recognition of Israel for many years and only agreed to amend its charter under significant American and Israeli pressure. Meshaal noted that despite revising its position in 1996, the PLO still has not achieved a Palestinian state and, in fact, lost  popularity among Palestinians because of it.

A recurring theme of Meshaal’s answers was the difference between words and action. He downplayed the significance of the Hamas charter by pointing out that it was written in the “early days” of Hamas. Over time, Hamas has developed its political agenda, by agreeing to join the 2006 Palestinian Legsilative Council elections and accepting a solution to the conflict based on the 1967 borders. Hamas actions, he argued, should be more important than what is written in its charter.

He likewise argued that U.S. President Barack Obama should be judged by his actions and not his words. He expressed support for Obama’s speech in Cairo and said that Hamas was “ready to cooperate with Obama,” but that Obama’s Cairo speech was a “mirage” that had yet to become real. In his assessment, Meshaal felt that pressure from Israel and the “Israeli lobby” in the United States had caused Obama to back down far faster than Hamas had expected.



  1. If he wants to make a deal, then he can eliminate the genocidal nonsense from the Hamas charter. No Israeli in their right mind should ever consider making concessions to a group whose essential purpose is the mass slaughter of the Jews, because facilitating that mission is simply suicidal.

    But you see, neither Meshaal nor Hamas will ever remove these blood-soaked ravings from the Hamas charter, because the real truth is that while they’re willing to sound moderate when they talk to YOU, they resolutely believe that they have every right to commit genocide in revenge for the “humiliation” of Israel’s existence.

    If Hamas were actually willing to make peace based on the 1967 boundaries, 242, the Arab plan, etc. then all its Gaza thugs need to do is STOP ROCKETING ISRAELI CITIES AND LET SHALIT GO. And all that MESHAAL has to do is to declare the war for Gaza over and won, and state that the 1967 border has been achieved and that Gaza will no longer attack Israel. He can say that the struggle has now shifted to the WB, which must be liberated, etc. and he can support as much violence over there as he wants to support, and as long as he draws the line at Gaza, Gaza will have peace and he will have made the point that the ’67 borders are the essential ingredient for peace. He has to say that Gaza will henceforth prepare for a peaceful independence in which neighboring states respect each other’s (1967) borders. Hamas can then go on to lay the foundations of their ugly little Islamist version of a Palestinian state in Gaza if that’s what it wants to do. Most of the world will not care. Egypt would open its border, probably slowly because Hamas has acted like Egypt’s enemy. Islamic nations would invest (if they really trust Hamas). The border would go quiet. Most Israelis would distrust such words for maybe 5 years, but would come around if the words are actually true. The example in Gaza would then serve as a signpost indicating that the 1967 borders would likely end the conflict. Israel’s peace lobby would be revitalized. And so on.

    But you see, Hamas doesn’t care about any of that. Hamas does NOT exist to create a Palestinian state in the WB or Gaza or anywhere else. Rather, it exists to destroy Israel. Meshaal himself exists (in Damascus) because the Baathist junta that holds his leash knows that it can use Hamas as its hot-war proxy in its cold war against Israel. Otherwise Meshaal would be shunted aside or extinguished.

    I’m sorry, folks. It’s clear that you really, REALLY want to be convinced that Hamas is anything but what it really is, and so you convince yourselves. But that doesn’t change the reality of Hamas, the reality that Meshaal knows even while he’s smiling his way through meetings with you. The difference between words and action is that he’s talking to you only 4 days after his thugs in Gaza fired yet another Qassam rocket at Israeli civilians in Sderot. Each Qassam carries as much explosive by weight as 3 standard US Army fragmentation grenades. Firing these weapons at cities is an action with zero military value; its only purpose is to try to kill civilians.

    THAT’S the reality of Hamas.

    Comment by Howard — November 6, 2009 @ 10:28 am | Reply

    • It’s beginning to look like Howard is the paid hasbara agent allocated by Israel/AIPAC to this blog. He doesn’t bother with trivia like the truth, or do any research, it’s the same rant blared out again and again.

      Hint, Howard: read the Just World News archives.

      Comment by Alexno — November 8, 2009 @ 9:58 am | Reply

      • LMAO!

        Because I call a spade a spade, and Hamas a terror organization, I’m suddenly a paid agent of the Evil Jooish Conspiracy? Vapid conspiracy theories about me, personally, rather than an attempt to consider my points? I must have “arrived.”

        Alex, if someone offered me money to have these little conversations, I am confident that I would turn it down, because to be paid might implicitly compromise my independence. I represent nobody but myself, and that’s how it’s going to stay. I call it like I see it. When I think Israel does something wrong, I say so. When I think that Israel makes mistakes, I say so. And when I read something here that I think is worth discussing, I do so.

        Of course, I don’t see you complaining that Helena IS being paid to be the director of an explicitly and purposefully anti-Israel political lobbying group, however, while she continues to serve on the board of HRW. Now that IS an interesting situation.

        And Alex, if you want to cite a particular JWN post, feel free to link to it. 😉

        Comment by Howard — November 10, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

  2. Very, very exciting to learn that Meshaal now refers to “Israel” instead of “zionist entity”. Could this have been brokered by Gerry Adams at that meeting with Hamas organised by Tony Blair not long ago? Are we getting somewhere at last? Goodness, could it even transpire that Tony Blair may one day be added to HC’s new Jumblatt, Siniora, al-Harri warm and cuddly list? Stranger things have happened, Shirin et al.

    Comment by bb — November 6, 2009 @ 11:03 am | Reply

  3. I attended a debate with the very astute Omar Barghouti last night, and came to a disturbing realization. Barghouti (along with the other Barghouti, Mustafa) is a highly educated and eloquent proponent of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. I take it you saw Mustafa on the Daily Show. These Barghoutis are skilled at invoking the kind of civil rights language that resonates with Americans in order to frame the conflict as a struggle for equal representation and democracy. However, it only occurred to me last night that these bright, wealthy, and ostensibly moderate Palestinians–and the whole BDS movement they represent–reject the idea of a two-state solution. I put the question to Omar Barghouti directly: “Were the Israelis and the PLO to sign a two-state peace accord that forgoes the refugees’ right of return, would the BDS movement continue to agitate for their return and for the full democratization of the Israeli state?” His answer was “Yes. We reject the two-state framework absolutely.”

    This, to me, is the sticking point, with Hamas as with the nonviolent civil-society people. I’m all for engaging Hamas. Let’s engage. Let’s do it even if the Israelis aren’t doing it. But when Khaled Meshaal says “Let us get our rights… Then we could discuss many issues”–it’s clear to me that he means let us realize the right of return. If the right of return is a non-negotiable demand of the BDS movement, how can it not be the same for Hamas? And if this demand is so hegemonic across the whole spectrum of Palestinian public opinion such that no Palestinian leader could forgo it without losing his credibility, which I am beginning to sense is the case, then are peace negotiations even worth having? Israel, it is safe to say, will NEVER allow the refugees to return in the context of a negotiated peace (which is why the BDS people instead envision a decades-long civil rights type struggle). And if the Palestinians are equally inflexible, should the U.S. even be pursing peace diplomacy?

    For the last sixteen years, the idea seems to have been to find some Abbas-like figure who is willing to betray the actual aspirations of the Palestinian people, and use him to establish a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories in the hopes that the question of refugees will just fade away once that happens. This outcome was clearly in Israel’s strategic interest as compared with the alternative. But it hasn’t happened, for reasons that have mostly to do with the Israeli settlement enterprise. Now Abbas is stepping down and a Barghouti will probably rise to power, aligned with Hamas in his rejection of the two-state paradigm.

    So, I am puzzled by this notion that bringing Hamas into the fold is going to radically improve our chances of peace. I think it assumes an incorrect view of what a successful “peace” looks like to any American administration. The “problem” with Hamas is that they are broadly representative of Palestinians at large, at least in terms of their core political demands (certainly not in terms of their social and religious agenda). A successful “peace” for the U.S., on the other hand, is one that effectively circumvents the most central of these demands. We can oppose mindlessly shunting Hamas into a category with Al-Qaeda and still, I think, acknowledge that Hamas represents views that are incompatible with negotiations.

    Comment by Matt — November 6, 2009 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  4. […] week with Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau in Syria.  He first posted at Fair Policy, Fair Discussion. It would be great to get an active conversation going about what people think of Meshaal’s […]

    Pingback by Brains Like a Shoe » Hamas Leader Open to Future Relations with Israel — November 6, 2009 @ 6:28 pm | Reply

  5. […] in the same meeting, indeed, he spelled out– as noted here– that in the context of the Palestinians winning what Hamas considers a satisfactory […]

    Pingback by Matlock and Meshaal « Fair Policy, Fair Discussion — November 22, 2009 @ 11:55 pm | Reply

  6. […] was later in the same meeting that Meshaal made the statement about being open– in the context of the Palestinians have secured their rights in a state […]

    Pingback by Matlock and Meshaal: the video « Fair Policy, Fair Discussion — November 27, 2009 @ 7:20 pm | Reply

  7. @Matt
    The Right to Return is a basic necessity for peace in Israel. Let me ask you Matt, what is more important, the two state solution or Palestinian right to return.?
    For me the answer is crystal clear, the Palestinians have the unalterable right to return . That right supercedes any abstract,legalistic, two state solution,formulated by an elite western status quo. From this position(right to return), the moral position, we move forward. To remain stalled, because of this abstract legalism,the cause of justice for all, withers and dies on the vine.
    When you say **Israel, it is safe to say, will NEVER allow the refugees to return in the context of a negotiated peace (which is why the BDS people instead envision a decades-long civil rights type struggle). And if the Palestinians are equally inflexible, should the U.S. even be pursing peace diplomacy? ** Does this not advocate and indeed encourage the metastasis we witness now and have witnessed for the part 60 years?
    You acknowledge the intractability of the situation. However,here is where I detect an unbalanced presentation of facts on your part and this unbalanced presentation typifies the Israeli position, which is always foisted upon the US public via the main stream media. You say Israel will NEVER!!! allow refugees to return. That grotesque INFLEXIBILITY must be hardwired into America’s subconscious in order to resolve this stand off. Alas, it is always the Palestinian’s inflexibility.
    The two state solution, may indeed be simply a furtherance of a biased unjust policy, that so typifies the history of Israel. The two state solution could be deliberately engineered to complicate and hinder and efforts of a just peace. Let’s step outside the box and consider other more fruitful options.

    Comment by Peter D Durant — November 27, 2009 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

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