Is Hamas Considering Direct Talks with Israel?

Hamas said to be reviewing its strategy and might consider talking directly not just with Israel, but with the West as well.

Elad Benari ,

Hamas terrorists in Gaza
Hamas terrorists in Gaza

After years of calling for Israel’s destruction, is Hamas actually prepared to talk with the Jewish state? According to a report on Monday in the British Independent, the group may be considering it.

According to the report, Hamas is reviewing its strategy with the changing times. It is conducting an internal debate, with proposals which have had to be officially refuted.

One such proposal was for direct negotiations with the Israelis, currently forbidden by the movement’s constitution.

A statement was issued saying direct negotiations with Israel is not the movement’s policy and is not on the table for discussion. The call, however, had come from none other than Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy political chief of Hamas.

“We have negotiated with Israel using weapons; so it is possible to negotiate with words,” he said, according to the Independent, adding that one valuable advantage of such talks would be limiting the meddling of mediators – foreign powers who often have their own agendas.

Talks with Israel may not be the only thing on Hamas’s agenda, the report said. Some senior figures in the organization think that there is a need to break entirely from old precepts in foreign relations and perhaps hold direct talks with the West as well.

“We have to acknowledge that there is a negative image of us among some in Europe and America. We can carry on and let that continue, or we can talk to these countries, put forward our case, exchange ideas: that seems to us to be the practical way forward,” Sheikh Ahmad Yousef, one of the movement’s ideologues, told the Independent.

Hamas needs to rethink its whole strategy, held Sheikh Ahmad, looking at what has been learnt from successive rounds of conflicts and negotiations and also be prepared to make changes to its 27-year-old manifesto, especially the parts in it which can be viewed as anti-Semitic.

At the same time everything possible must be done to distance the movement from Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS), he said, “making it very clear that the Islam we believe in is very different from theirs”.

Some of Sheikh Ahmad’s ideas were introduced at a conference in Birzeit University near Ramallah.

“The reaction was, overall, quite good. There is a new generation of young leaders coming up, and they are the people we should look to to carry out the reforms necessary,” he told the Independent.

Hamas is known to have held indirect talks with Israel on several occasions, the most recent of which being after Operation Protective Edge this past summer. At the time, a ceasefire to end the hostilities was mediated by Egypt and talks on achieving a long-term truce were to continue in Cairo but have yet to materialize.

There were also unconfirmed reports that Israel had been holding secret negotiations with Hamas after the end of a previous round of fighting in Gaza, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.