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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Hamas’ New Political Document: Its Implications and Objectives

Filed under: Hamas, Israel, Palestinians

Hamas’ New Political Document: Its Implications and Objectives
Ismail Haniya (left), newly elected head of Hamas political director, and Yahya Sinwar, the military leader of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades. (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)

Hamas logo

On May 1, 2017, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal presented Hamas’ much anticipated political document, which does not abrogate the Hamas Charter but outlines the strategies that the group has tailored to its current political circumstances.1

The main points of Hamas’ new political document are:

  • Full reliance on Islam as the group’s sole source of authority for its strategies and objectives.
  • Denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the Land of Israel, while claiming that Israel’s establishment as a state is entirely illegitimate and depicting Zionism as the enemy of humanity. Hamas claims it “does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”
  • Conferral of an “Arab-Islamic” and “sacred Islamic” character on all of Palestine, entailing the complete denial of any bond or right of the Jewish people or of Christianity to the land. [Hamas believes, based on the Koran and Islamic sources, Jesus was neither a Jew nor a Christian but a prophet of Islam who received the Islamic doctrine from Allah.]
  • Justification of the current nature of the struggle to liberate Palestine, that is, the armed struggle, while granting legitimacy to the existence and activity of the “struggle organizations” – namely, the Palestinian terror organizations and their activity.
  • Willingness for a Palestinian state to be established within temporary borders (1967 lines) as a step toward continuing the armed struggle to destroy Israel – “from the river to the sea.”
  • Recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), while also demanding new elections to its institutions and denying the validity of the organization’s political line and of the agreements it has signed with Israel.
  • Praise for the “free people” in the world who support the Palestinian struggle against Israel.
Ismail Haniya and Yahya Sinwar
Ismail Haniya (left), newly elected head of Hamas political director, and Yahya Sinwar, the military leader of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades. (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)

What’s behind Hamas’ Document Release?

An analysis of Hamas’ policy in recent years, together with the wording of the new political document, indicates that the objectives of this document are to demonstrate an ostensible political flexibility and thereby create a dialogue with the West, international institutions, and the United Nations, thus gaining recognition for Hamas as a legitimate political actor while working to annul its designation as a terror organization. Hamas’ senior officials are again trying to foster the impression in the international community that time is working in the Palestinians’ favor, and that alliance with Israel will not pay off in the long run.

Political deceit: Hamas does not recognize the authority of the United Nations, its institutions, or its resolutions, including Resolution 181 on partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine. In recent years, however, the group’s policy has changed. It is now prepared to take part in the political game as long as it serves its objectives, does not contravene the basic Islamic tenets that guide it, and brings the jihad closer to the goal of liberating Palestine and destroying Israel. 

Laying the groundwork to take over the PLO: At present, Hamas’ overriding aim is to translate the political power it has accumulated via its control of the Gaza Strip and the support it receives from Islamic states such as Iran to take over the representative Palestinian institutions that are recognized by the international community. Hence, Hamas is demanding to join the PLO. Although portrayed to the outside world as a reconciliation process, it is actually an effort to conquer this organization – internationally recognized as the sole and exclusive representative of the Palestinian people – from within. If Hamas can gain control of the PLO, it will secure the legitimacy it needs to rule all the Palestinian territories. It believes it can then use the international community to support its jihad struggle against Israel.

Challenging the Palestinian Authority: The Palestinian arena is in a zero-sum struggle between the PA, which does not rule Gaza, and Hamas, which is openly contesting the legitimacy of PA rule and working to oust it and take over the PLO institutions. Hamas keeps striving to undermine the PA’s control of the West Bank. It does so by stepping up the intifada in its different forms, waging a propaganda campaign to deny the PA government’s legitimacy, and building up the organizational infrastructure to take part in the succession battle after Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) leaves the scene.

For the time being, Hamas seeks to maintain the status quo in the conflict with Israel. At this stage, Hamas has no interest in initiating a round of military conflict with Israel in Gaza unless it believes it would further the goal of toppling the PA and assuming control of the PA’s West Bank institutions.

To subvert Israel’s power and its exercise of the right to self-defense, Hamas will employ diplomatic, legal, and propaganda means, using diplomatic pressures, resolutions of international institutions, sanctions, and rulings of international courts. Hamas assigns a special importance to liberal organizations and activists in the world who support the Palestinian struggle.

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