Hamas has presented a new political document that accepts the formation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, without recognising the state of Israel, and states that the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one.
“Without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity … Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus,” the document reads.
While Hamas’ 1988 founding charter called for the takeover of all of mandate Palestine, including present-day Israel, the new document accepts the 1967 borders as the basis for a Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
It also falls well short of accepting the two-state solution that is assumed to be the end product of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
The document also clarifies that Hamas’ fight is with “Zionist project”, not with the religion of Judaism, making a distinction between Jews who believe in Judaism and “Zionist Israeli citizens who occupy Palestinian lands”.
It also sidesteps language in the group’s original charter that affirms its connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Element of pragmatism
Analysts said the release of the document, which was presented to the public after two years of work, appears to be an attempt by Hamas to seem more pragmatic and help it to avoid international isolation.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mohammad Abu Saada, a professor at Gaza’s al-Azhar Univerity, described the new document as a bid to “accommodate Egyptian conditions and calm Egyptian fears” regarding Hamas connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has classified as a “terror” group since democratically elected president Mohammad Morsi was ousted in a 2013 military coup.
While in the 1988 charter Hamas affirmed its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood by mentioning it six times, the new document asserted Hamas strict Palestinian credentials as a “liberation movement” that uses Islam as its main ideological component.
“Hamas is trying to walk a fine line between its hardliners and its own moderates,” said Abu Saada of al-Azhar University.
“In one way, the moderates can say they accepted a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, but the hardliners can still say they are not recognising Israel.”
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. Since then, Gaza has suffered three major Israeli assaults and a crippling 10-year-long siege, while more than than 3,500 Palestinians have been killed.
“The question is whether this change will do anything to try and lift the blockade, or anything to get this struggling economy back on its feet,” said Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Gaza City.
Israeli officials rejected the document before it was made official, calling it an attempt by Hamas to trick the world into believing it was becoming a more moderate group.
“Hamas is attempted to fool the world but it will not succeed,” said David Keyes, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.
The document’s release comes just days ahead of Palestinian Authority President (PA) Mahmoud Abbas’ visit to Washington on May 3 and as US President Donald Trump’s administration prepares a new push to forge peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
But Israel has frequently refused to enter into political talks with Abbas’ PA on the grounds that they do not represent all Palestinians.