On May 1, with much public fanfare, Hamas issued a new Document of General Principles and Policies that ostensibly updates the terrorist group’s 1988 founding charter that called for the destruction of Israel. Hamas has long sought the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state on the territories of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal presented the new document at a press conference in Doha, Qatar, where he lives in exile. Qatar is a major benefactor of Hamas. Release of the document before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet for the first time with President Trump at the White House, was no doubt intended to raise the profile of Hamas as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and potential interlocutor in the peace process. Until now, Hamas has adamantly refused to recognize the State of Israel, a step that the international community has set as a prerequisite for Hamas to be considered for a seat at the table. It has also refused to disarm. And it remains the chief Palestinian opponent of Abbas and the Fatah party he heads that governs the West Bank. Numerous efforts by Arab countries to reconcile the deep Fatah-Hamas divide have failed.

So, what is there in the new Hamas document that might possibly signal change? A review of the main points reveals no indication that Hamas is willing to or even capable of reforming itself.

  1. Palestinian State: “Without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, 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,” states the new document. While Hamas appears to accept the idea of a Palestinian state only in the territories outside pre-1967 Israel, it still does not recognize Israel. “There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity,” states the document. Moreover, as Meshaal explained, Hamas does not foresee "any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea." Thus, the new policy document stays true to the original 1988 charter.
  2. Zionist Entity: Hamas continues to project a mythical bifurcation aimed at separating Jews from the State of Israel, or what Hamas calls “the Zionist entity.” “Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine,” states the document. Meshaal further explained that “Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project, not with the Jews because of their religion.” This again confirms Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel.
  3. Hamas continues to advocate for and defend what it calls “armed resistance.” “The resistance to occupation, by all means and methods, is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws, customs and international laws,” states Hamas. Armed resistance, however, is a euphemism for terrorism. From suicide bombings to launching thousands of rockets and missiles from Gaza, Hamas has used terrorism to advance its mission. Hamas has long been recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
  4. Refugees: “The right of the Palestinian refugees and the displaced to return to their homes from which they were banished or were banned from returning to – whether in the lands occupied in 1948 or in 1967, is a natural right, both individual and collective,” Hamas states. Here Hamas is committed still to replacing the State of Israel, which is referred to as “lands occupied in 1948.”

In recent months, Hamas has devoted resources to rebuilding and expanding the network of tunnels that were destroyed by Israel in the 2014 war, the third conflict between Hamas and Israel since Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in 2005. At that time Israel transferred the coastal territory to the Palestinian Authority, which subsequently lost control of Gaza to Hamas in a bloody coup in 2007. In the ensuing ten years, Abbas has been unable to visit Gaza.

Hamas has demonstrated no interest in joining together with the PA to create the institutions necessary for building a prospective and peaceful Palestinian state. On the contrary, it remains committed to using violence to achieving its long-range goal of destroying Israel, a mission confirmed in the new Hamas policy document.

And, if there was any doubt about the group’s intentions, as Abbas met at the White House with President Trump, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said: “No one has authorized Mahmoud Abbas to represent the Palestinian people, and no one is obligated to any position he’s issued.”

Kenneth Bandler is AJC’s Director of Media Relations.

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