What Hamas Really Wants

If you ever dared hope that Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamist group that rules Gaza, could become a responsible party in future peace talks with Israel, you need to know what happened this past weekend.

The party’s exiled leader, Khaled Meshal, visited Gaza for the first time to mark the 25th anniversary of Hamas’ s founding and gave what The New York Times called “a defiant speech, vowing to build an Islamic Palestinian state on all the land of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

As The Times reported, Meshal declared:

“Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land.” He vowed that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants would one day return to their original homes in what is now Israel (italics added).

“We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation, and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take,” he said. “We will free Jerusalem inch by inch, stone by stone. Israel has no right to be in Jerusalem.”

What Meshal  advocated, of course, was the obliteration of the State of Israel and its replacement by an Islamic Palestinian state. Not the “two-state solution” envisioned by nearly everyone since the original  1947 United Nations partition plan, but a unitary Palestinian state ruled by Islam.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal arrives in the Gaza Strip before his first trip there to celebrate Hamas’s 25th anniversary. (AP Photo/Suhaib Salem , Pool)

It was as blatant a statement of purpose as any leader of a terrorist  group—which is how nearly the entire developed world views Hamas—has ever made, echoing the group’s notorious 1988 charter. Here’s one example from that hate-filled document:

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.

And another:

The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is a religious Islamic endowment [waqf] for all Muslims until Resurrection Day. It is forbidden to give it up or any part of it (italics added).

And here’s my “favorite”:

The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: “O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.”

Has Hamas or its leaders disavowed any of this? Not to my knowledge.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly condemned Meshal’s remarks:

“Over the last day, we have again been exposed to the true face of our enemies. They have no intention of compromising with us. They want to destroy our country,” Netanyahu told his weekly cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu said Israel would never withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank as it had done from Gaza in 2005, arguing that this would risk creating another territory from which Palestinians could launch rockets at Israeli cities.

I’ve been critical of Netanyahu for aligning himself with the Israeli far right, abetting the growing power of the ultra-Orthodox and threatening to expand Jewish settlements on the West Bank too aggressively. Those aren’t healthy for Israeli society, in my view, let alone for whatever prospects remain for a lasting peace with Palestinians.

But Israel already has thousands of missiles pointed at it from Lebanon in the north and hundreds from Gaza in the south. If it were to leave the West Bank and Hamas came to power there—a real possibility—it would no doubt face missiles from the east as well, 25 miles from Tel Aviv.

Given what Meshal said over the weekend, no Israeli prime minister, liberal or conservative, could ever allow that to happen, nor should they. That’s the real reason the two-state solution has become a dream, and a fading one at that.



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