In Palestinian Power Struggle, Hamas Moderates Talk on Israel

Members of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, in the Gaza Strip last year. (photo; Said Khatib / AFP / Getty Images)

Hamas presents new charter accepting a Palestine based on 1967 borders.

By Ian Fisher / The New York Times
May 1, 2017

“Whether it’s a coincidence or it’s connected, I have one thing to say: The Palestinian leadership is afraid of this Hamas moderation. Because the [Palestinian Authority] and Fatah are afraid that by this moderation, Hamas presents itself as the true representation of the Palestinian people.”
— Mkhaimar Abusada, political scientist at Al-Azhar University-Gaza

Hamas, the militant group built around violent resistance to Israel, sought on Monday to present a more moderate public face, taking its next shot in an intensifying struggle for leadership of the Palestinian cause and international recognition.

Released by Hamas just days before its chief rival, the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, was to meet President Trump, a new document of principles for the group calls for closer ties to Egypt, waters down the anti-Semitic language from its charter, and accepts at least a provisional Palestinian state — though it still does not formally recognize Israel.

With its statement, Hamas is trying to offer a more mainstream-friendly version of its vision for the Palestinian cause, and to gain ground against Mr. Abbas, whose influence is growing more tenuous.

Mr. Abbas is 82 years old, and his rivals within his own Fatah movement are increasingly open about the struggle to succeed him. Seeking to regain the initiative, he has recently waged a crackdown on Hamas, cutting salaries due to them from the Palestinian Authority and refusing to pay for electricity in the militant group’s power base in Gaza.

The split between the two groups — Fatah in the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza — has stood as one of the major obstacles in the peace process with Israel: Who, the Israelis ask, is their partner if the Palestinians are so deeply divided? That division has also been convenient for, and encouraged by, those on the Israeli right who do not want a peace deal.

But the Hamas document, which has been leaking for weeks, is less a change in Hamas’s fundamental beliefs than a challenge for the credibility of Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, as well as internationally.

[Read the full article here . . . ]

[Read coverage in The Guardian here . . . ]