Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Hamas' Two State Solution

In a recent British Foreign Affairs Committee report, one of the people giving evidence asserted that “Hamas is committed to a two-state solution [and…] is not committed to the destruction of the state of Israel”[1] This even surprised the head of Foreign Affairs Committee and prompted the person giving evidence to send in written evidence for his assertion.[2] This is simply not borne out by the facts.

The Charter

The land of Palestine is an “Islamic waqf [Holy possession]” and “no one can renounce it or any part, or abandon it or any part of it.” It also states that “[Peace] initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement... There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.” It states that Palestine must be turned into an Islamic state. And just to knock the nail on the coffin of a two-state solution: “'Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”[3] However, this document was drafted in 1988, many commentators now suggest that Hamas have moved on and no longer use this as a platform.[4] Yet, Khaled Meshal, when asked if Hamas would rewrite its charter, he said “Not a chance.”[5] Maybe this is just to save face. Michael Broning, in a recent Foreign Affairs article, notes:

Although Hamas has not officially renounced the charter, no references to it can be found in any of the group's recent statements. Moreover, Hamas leaders, such as Mahmoud Ahmad al-Ramahi, the secretary-general of the Palestinian Legislative Council, have recently begun downplaying the charter's relevance by clarifying that "it should not be confused with the Holy Koran."[6]

However, even if Broning is correct, the statements and actions of Hamas strongly indicate that its fundamental positions have not changed. And while the Charter has not been invoked as much, the fundamental principles have been affirmed. During their 23rd Anniversary, Hamas released a press statement which stated:

"Hamas has worked in accordance with the teachings written by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his companions who started the first spark of the blessed intifada... The statement stressed that Palestine from the sea to the river is the land of the Palestinians and that Hamas will never recognize the Israeli occupation state and will remain adherent to the resistance option until the liberation of Palestine and its holy sites.[7]

This is not a unique statement – there are further Hamas statements below.

Hamas goes to Washington

A point must be emphasised: these statements were made to Western journalists. Hamas statements in Arabic are stronger and often issued when there is any hint that there is a move toward moderation (this will be shown in greater detail below). And when there is any hint, they will backtrack. So its worth keeping in mind that the following positions are their most moderate.

The source for all the following interviews is ‘Interviews from Gaza’ – a series of interviews conducted by Roger Gaess (unless otherwise stated)[8]. Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, along with Rantissi were the main people who set Hamas up as a Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.[9] In an interview, he stated the following;

All of Palestine is occupied. And there is an entity for the Zionist movement on Palestinian land which embodies apartheid. We want a place that absorbs Palestinian Muslims, Jews and others without differentiation.

I accept the 1967 border as a stage of the struggle but not as the definitive solution because we still have the right to our land. My home is in Ashkelon [on what is now Israel's southern coast] and not within the 1967 boundaries and millions of refugees still have homes inside Israel.

Yassin then states that “recognition of an Israeli state is conditioned on their recognition of our rights,” in other words, until they have a state they are “not in a position to recognize Israel.” Yassin is playing a game; for Israel to “recognise” their rights is for Israel to cease to exist. He will only speak about ‘recognition’ after withdrawal but the right of return is also in his proposal.

Rantisi starts off relatively optimistically;

Q: Are there any conditions under which Hamas will freeze its armed struggle?

Rantisi: An end of the occupation -- nothing else. Until the occupiers leave, we'll continue our struggle.

But then when asked about whether the goal of Hamas is to end the occupation or replace Israel with a unitary state, he evades the question by saying that “We need to hear first about the goals of the Israelis” and that Hamas “shouldn't answer this question until the Israelis make their intentions known.” He continues to say:

The most important objective of Hamas is to end the tragedy of the Palestinians, a majority of whom are living in camps. We want to see our people live like other people everywhere -- living on their land, free of massacres, assassinations or siege. As for destroying Israel, we haven't the strength. So to speak as though we did is not at all logical.

So practically, he is saying that he cannot destroy Israel but wants Palestinians who are living in camps to return to Israel – i.e. demographically destroy Israel. He goes on to debate why a Jewish state should not exist (for the purposes of insuring a right of return). Al Zahr toes the party line, elaborating on a few details;

Negotiation is not our aim. Negotiation is a method. If the Israeli is ready to give us the national demand, to withdraw from the occupied area ‘67, to release our detainees, to stop their aggression, to make a geographic linkage between Gaza Strip and West Bank, at that time, and with assurance from other side, we are going to accept to establish our independent state at that time, and give up one or two, 10, 15 years time in order to see what is the real intention of Israel after that.[10]

Abu Shanab sets out almost the exact same policy. Like Rantisi he is asking for a state with a right of return and like Yassin he doesn’t want peace but a prolonged ceasefire – not peace or recognition. He goes on to say that they “have a right to all of Palestine” and that he cannot recognise Israel because (like Rantisi) they cannot recognise anything without a state but also because he cannot “waive” the right to the homeland. Interestingly, however, there is a flexibility of the right of return;

I assure you that not all those millions of Palestinians outside will want to come back. But they have that right, as symbolic of their having roots in this land. They long for the places their families came from. Flexibility on the refugees shouldn't mean evading Resolution 194, but there can be flexibility on how it is implemented. The Israelis, for instance, could accept 10,000, 20,000 the first year, the second . . ., and so on.

Depending on your ideology, you may able to reconcile yourself with this point – it shows concession, or to others, it shows at least a somewhat realistic approach. However, what any reasonable person cannot reconcile them with is that all this does not come with peace. It comes with prolonged ceasefire. Not only does this not it in with the international formula of land for peace, but it is completely unrealistic that the Israelis will accept the plan – and nor should they. What all these officials are asking for is a right of return (in only one case, limited), 100% of the territory with no reciprocation but merely a decision to be made in 10-20 years.

Zahar seemed to mentioned the possibility at the full acceptance of a two-state solution in a letter to Kofi Anan.[11] However, even that was short lived. According to Zahar, “such a sentence was not used in the letter" (this was also confirmed by Reuters).[12] In fact just months before he repeated the same ‘hudna-full-withdrawal line’[13] and in mid-2009 said that “Hamas adheres to the position that the [Palestinian] state must contain all the territory of Palestine”[14]

Meshal comes to Washington

The amount of times I have seen ‘Hamas accepts two-state solution’ and then the complete opposite becomes annoying and most of the time, Meshal is behind it. Before I move on to his positions, I just want to debunk a myth that people still seem to be barking on about: The ‘Hamas Document.’[15] The Hamas Document does not recognise the ’67 borders as the end of the road. It actually expresses its “commitment to the goal of dislodging the occupation, and the establishment of an independent, fully sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem.” There are two problems: it doesn’t say what occupation – which is tricky for Hamas given that their spiritual leader said “All of Palestine is occupied” and secondly, it doesn’t say this is all they want.[16]

Khaled Meshal position is, and this is his minimal demand, “the establishment of a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, that has full sovereignty on the borders of 4 June 1967... the removal of all settlements and the achievement of the right of return"[17] Meshal also referred to Israel as a “reality”[18]Some have seen this as acceptance of a two-state solution. Accepting the fact that Israel is in control of an area of land is not accepting a two-state solution. For a peace treaty, it must recognise these borders as the end. Yet, all he says is that there will be a prolonged ceasefire for 10 years.[19]

However, there still seem to be commentators who suggest that Hamas have accepted a two-state solution. This is an excerpt from a South Jerusalem;

In the final paragraph of the excerpt below, the interviewer is essentially asking Meshaal if he isn’t still committed to the Hamas Charter of 1988, which leaves no room for Israel. Meshaal’s answer is: In my heart, of course I believe all of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians. But practically speaking, our political position is a de facto two-state solution.

But what Meshal said is not nearly as sincere:

As for the claims that Hamas seeks to eradicate Israel, Meshaal said: “We are committed to the political platform on which we agreed with the other Palestinian forces and in convergence with Arab position… After that, whoever wants to recognize Israel or not, that would a matter of his personal convictions.[20]

Meaning that it does not accept a two state solution, but a establishment of a Palestinian state and then “whoever” wants to recognise Israel is a “matter of his personal [i.e. not political] convictions.” In any case, Meshal went back to toeing the same line in his latest interview.[21]

Hamas’ Referendum Proposal

In December 2010, Hamas came out with one of their other 'resolutions' for the conflict. "Hamas will respect the results (of a referendum) regardless of whether it differs with its ideology and principles." Except, again, while this gave something for Western audiences to grab on to - it is not an acceptance of a two state solution. What followed was backtracking and a systematic denial by Hamas officials of any moderation.

Fristly, without looking at any subsequent source, if we look at what Haniyeh said it doesn't actually make any difference. This referendum thing was put about by Yassin in the 90s. As an Israeli official pointed out: "Haniya never explicitly said Hamas would be prepared to end its conflict with Israel in such a case." They will accept a state on the '67 borders but they don't say anything about after.

And lest anyone think this is just a Zionist interpretation of his statements, in a subsequent interview from Haniyeh's political advisor, Yousseff Rizqa stated that: "So we should not exaggerate things... and it seems that Moshe Ya'alon was accurate when he said: 'Haniyeh's comments confirm that no change in the positions of Hamas'.." According to Firas Press, this is echoed by other Hamas analysts: "analysts of Hamas said that Haniyeh was based on the impossibility of holding the referendum in all regions of the Palestinian presence."[22]

There are also two speeches from al-Zahar; the first is from the 6th December; al-Zahar stated that "On the idea of a referendum on the al-Zahar stressed that Hamas does not accept any referendum on the constants... The referendum can be conducted on the mechanisms [modus operandi]... but not on ‘the holy places, faith, money, land or personal worth.’"[23] And, again, on the 9th December al-Zahar stated that on Hamas' website: "Hamas will continue and proceeed until the liberation of all Palestine from the Zionists... The constants [fundamentals] are not subject to human discretion, and our land is sacred is not subject to referendum or bargain or sale or purchase... we are your servants until the liberation of all Palestine."[24]

Firas Press also reported that Haniyeh's statements caused "anger." Then followed a statement by Haniyeh where he ‘clarified’ his position; "Ismail Haniyeh, head of the deposed government run by Hamas, said his movement will not give up the rights of the Palestinian people, and said that talk of an 'interim order' does not mean compromising with 'Palestinian principles.”[25] They key thing here is he is confirming what the Israeli official said: he's talking about an "interim" period; this is not acceptance of a peace deal.[26] It's a phased plan.

Hamas in Arabia

As I stated above, the statements quoted above are mostly from the Western media and they mostly derive from interviews with Western journalists. What is ignored is the constant statements from Hamas in Arabic.

I’m going to have to put all the statements in a spoiler because there are simply too many. You’ll notice that most of the references are to Arabic media outlets or quotes given to Arab audiences:

[Show Hamas Statements]

And there are many many more that I have not included from before 2010 and during but have taken out because of space. A particularly explicit statement from Meshaal: "Before Israel dies, it must be humiliated and degraded. … We will make them lose their eyesight, we will make them lose their brains.”[44]

There was some recent buzz about Hamas accepting a two state solution as part of the unity deal.[45]However, again, this is not based on fact. In the immediate aftermath of the agreement, Hamas called on the PLO to rescind recognition of Israel.[46] Hamas officials stated that the right of return was non-negotiable and that they “must stick to the resistance until the liberation of Palestine.”[47] Meshal went on to reject the Quartet conditions and threatened more Israeli soldiers.[48] And, again, there have been many more statements affirming the position.[49]

There are also actions which Hamas takes which indicates that this is its policy. Firas Press reported that during the Palestinian reconciliation talks, Hamas refused to sign an agreement because it would recognise Israel. (Incidentally, Fatah denied that such a statement was included in the agreement).[50] And in August-September 2010 when negotiations were due to start again between Netanyahu and Abbas, Hamas halted a meeting for Palestinian unity because of those very negotiations.[51] And this is without going into constant references to Israel proper being ‘occupied’[52], the cartoons and television programmes to both children and adults that aim for the complete “liberation” of Palestine.[53]


Hamas does not want a two state solution. It wants the establishment of a Palestinian state on the ’67 borders, with a long term truce (ranging from 10-25 years) and a right of return. That is not the acceptance of Israel as the ‘second’ state. It is not the end – or at least announced end – of the conflict for Hamas. Statements made in English which often indicate moderation are often misinterpreted or backtracked while statements in Arabic are often ignored.

[1] Global Security: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (2009), p.47

[2] http://www.parliamentlive.tv/main/Player.aspx?meetingid=3421, his written evidence can be found here:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmfaff/261/261.pdf (p.143, ‘Email from Dr. Albasoos’)

[3] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp

[4] http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_7823000/7823746.stm

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/opinion/13mcgeough.html?_r=1

[6] http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/65214/michael-bröning/hamas-20

[7] http://www.qassam.ps/news-3912-Hamas_renews_oath_on_its_23rd_anniversary_to_defend_rights.html

[8] Found here: http://www.mepc.org/journal_vol9/0212_gaess.asp


[10] http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/wp-content/uploads/2006/01/Blitzer-interview-with-Al-Zahar-Hamas.doc, see also http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/01/29/hamas.interview/index.html

[11] http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/04/04/mideast/index.html

[12] http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/189/38234.html, see original:http://www.almubadara.org/new/edetails.php?id=1210

[13] http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/01/29/hamas.interview/

[14] http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e077.htm

[15] Found here: http://justworldnews.org/archives/Hamas.html

[16] More convincing argument here: http://justworldnews.org/archives/001090.html - and this goes for the Prisoners document as well.

[17] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8120405.stm

[18] http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSL1046412720070110

[19] http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jQQms5pe3eJHtZXdqHjCT86hI67Q

[20] http://southjerusalem.com/2008/04/is-hamas-looking-for-a-two-state-solution-should-we-listen/

[21] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/world/middleeast/05meshal.html


[23]http://www.addustour.com/ViewTopic.aspx?ac=\ArabicAndInter\2010\12\ArabicAndInter_issue1148_day06_id285777.htm, see alsohttp://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ipc_e148.htm

[24] http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=19513


[26] See also, an opinion piece published by Hamas where they explicitly stated this: “Prime Minister Ismael Haniya was probably tendentiously misunderstood when he was quoted recently as saying that the movement would accept the outcome of any referendum pertaining to the peace process with Israel. What Haniya actually meant was that Hamas wouldn't employ any undemocratic means to force its vision upon the Palestinian people. But he never meant and he never would mean or even imply that the movement would abandon its ideological tenets in this regard, namely its ideological and religious rejection of Israel.”http://www.qassam.ps/report-3889-Hamas_wont_recognize_Israel_period.html

[27] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharmine-narwani/hamas-chief-interview_b_700324.html


[29] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg5g8RCdCN0

[30] http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=19336, see alsohttp://www.thememriblog.org/blog_personal/en/32368.htm


[32] http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=340649

[33] http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=19531

[34] http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=19543

[35] http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gQnu5jmLNHez-yduNcGHQyFRsJ6Q?docId=CNG.9567db7c53d50c9a061453a81786b8d0.361, Arabic statement here:http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=19559

[36] http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=19570


[38] http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=19747

[39] http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/hamas-israel-has-two-options-death-or-leaving-palestinian-lands-1.332867

[40] http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ipc_e172.htm

[41]http://www.palestine-info.info/ar/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcOd87MDI46m9rUxJEpMO%2bi1s7bkXzBPElDmA5b68mjLrqs1NIl51QIA0X5I9Ok%2b6PQs56gTzNEkd43rqJeJhbnRhBf2F45LrfYF1z1qSu8pHtLyTvnOg3DlqtzsIxY%2bm6tKw%3d, English: http://www.thememriblog.org/blog_personal/en/36058.htm



[44] http://www.nysun.com/foreign/word-games-that-hamas-plays/51375/

[45] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4062851,00.html

[46] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4062337,00.html

[47] http://www.palestine-info.info/ar/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcOd87MDI46m9rUxJEpMO%2bi1s74FeYq7azoGtNYCw09TfLgfRUdichRU%2bypbcLwY1h1oSjUdw8%2bTh%2fO21ZVlzJAvLKbiCWCvWyOSxENV2ITMDBbP%2b1yVnb44%2f0tpY8%2b%2b8PaL8%3d


[49] http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ipc_e188.htm


[51] http://paltoday.ps/arabic/News-88621.html

[52] http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=21220, http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=21171, http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/news1.php?id=21192

[53] http://www.pmw.org.il/tv-hamas.htm: Hamas steals Mickey Mouse image to teach hate and Islamic supremacyApril 16-30, 2007