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Hamas’ Post-Election Strategy – Step-by-step to the Liberation of Palestine

Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections presents a substantial threat to the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations and even to the future of the entire Middle East. The concern over this threat can be seen in the urgent summit on January 30, 2006 in London, where member-states of the Quartet discussed how to deal with the new and unexpected situation. The focus of the concerns is that a terrorist organization has won the right to rule the Palestinian Authority (PA), while still refusing to recognize the state of Israel, to not abandon its “armed struggle, or to renew the peace process. 

Hamas calls upon quartet not to impose economic sanctions against the Palestinian people

Senior members of the Hamas movement-among them Khalid Mash’al, head of Hamas’ political bureau, Isma’il Haniyya, head of Hamas’ list for the PLC, and Sami Abu-Zuhri and Mushir Al-Masri, Hamas spokesmen-rejected the demands of the Quartet that Hamas lay down its arms and recognize Israel. The Hamas leaders called on the Quartet to respect the decision of the Palestinian people and not to base the transfer of funds to the PA on accession to these demands. According to Mash’al, since the Palestinian people still do not have a state they are dependent on foreign economic aid, however “they are not beggars.”[1] Mash’al added that the European Union (EU) in particular, must be able to see that the aid is given to the Palestinian people, if it wishes to win their sympathy. If this is not done, Mash’al warns, “it (the EU) is likely to regret it later, when Hamas will lead the Palestinian people to the haven of rest.” At the same time, both Mash’al and Haniyya called upon the leaders of the Arab and Muslim states, as the Arab investors, to stand by the Palestinians and not abandon them.[2]

Local Arab leaders join in the international pressure against Hamas

On February 1, 2006, Mahmud ‘Abbas (Abu Mazen), chairman of the PA, met with Husni Mubarak, President of Egypt, and ‘Umar Suliman, head of Egyptian intelligence. After the meeting, Abu Mazen promised that he would avoid imposing the task of forming the Palestinian government on the Hamas movement-despite its victory in the PLC elections-as long as Hamas refused to abandon the path of violence, recognize the state of Israel, and respect all of the agreements signed thus far. If Hamas continues to refuse, he said, he would be forced to impose on other factions the task of forming the new government. Suliman, who in recent years served as a mediator between Hamas and the PA, added that “if they will not accept upon themselves these issues, nobody will negotiate with them.” Notwithstanding, he noted that Hamas is a radical organization that will have difficulties putting forth a precise and instant change in its policy. Ahmad abu al-Ghit, Egyptian Foreign Minister, added that Hamas is unable to escape reality and that “whoever sits in the parliament speaks through his mouth and not through arms.”[3]

Even Jordan joined the pressure of the international community upon Hamas to abandon terror and recognize Israel. Jordanian Prime Minister Ma’ruf al-Bakhit said in Amman that the Jordanian government-which expelled leaders of Hamas following the signing of a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel-would continue its policy of zero contact with the exiled leadership of the organization.[4]

Hamas will not recognize Israel in spite of the heavy international pressures

In his victory speech on January 28, 2006 in Damascus, Mash’al, stressed that Hamas will not succumb to international pressures to recognize Israel. “We are adhering to the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem, the right of return, the evacuation of settlements and the option of armed resistance,” he said. Addressing Israeli voters ahead of the March 2006 Knesset elections, Mash’al said: “there will be no peace or security amid the Israeli occupation.”[5]

Nevertheless, Mash’al mentioned that Hamas is a pragmatic movement, and is aware that the PA is based on the foundation of the Oslo Accords. According to him, Hamas is willing to fulfill all accords signed by the PA, so long as this does not contradict its principles and does not violate the Palestinians’ rights. He argued that every agreement that is in favor of the Palestinian people and does not harm their rights will be acceptable by Hamas. Furthermore, he added that “non-recognition of Israel does not mean that no steps will be implemented that will consider the existing situation and the circumstances of this level…non-recognition of the occupation does not mean that I want to destroy Israel in a flash.” He noted that Hamas does not intend to alter its charter and that the armed struggle against Israel is what brought victory in the elections.[6]

In contrast to the non-recognition of Israel, Mash’al noted that Hamas will be willing to negotiate with the United States and the EU, however only on the provision that no preconditions will be imposed on it.[7]

Hamas is prepared for a “Hudna” (armistice) with Israel on restricted terms

In spite of this refusal to recognize Israel, Khalid Mash’al and Mahmud al-Zahhar expressed willingness to signing a temporary long-term peace treaty (“Hudna”).[8]

The “Hudna” that Hamas is proposing is very similar to The Hudaybiyya Treaty, a temporary treaty lasting ten years that was signed between the Prophet Muhammad and the Quraysh tribe in the year 628 (6 to the Hijra). This pact was representative of the period, and there exist numerous explanations for its signing: the first being the desire of Muhammad to allow himself and the Muslim believers, through significant religious concessions, to enter Mecca for a period of three days in order to fulfill the “‘Umra” (a minor pilgrimage to Mecca not during the period of Hajj), in return for the promise that during this time Mecca would be evacuated of its residents and the two sides would not confront one another. A second explanation was Muhammad’s desire to prevent a potential Quraysh-Jewish coalition against him. The third explanation is Muhammad’s desire to neutralize the Quraysh tribe in the south while he planned to attack the Khaybar-Jews in the north.

In retrospect, The Hudaybiyya Treaty allowed Muhammad and the Muslims to strengthen their ranks without needing to worry about a confrontation with the Quraysh tribe. After only two years (630) the Muslims annulled the agreement and conquered Mecca. This agreement has since been exploited more than once by radical Muslim organizations that seek to justify the annulment of agreements signed with those characterized as “enemies”.[9]

Hamas: Our democracy is not that of the United States and of Israel

According to Khalid Mash’al, the democracy preferred by the United States and its allies, particularly Israel, is a democracy that fits the norms and political agendas of those states, but is completely different from that of the Hamas. The Hamas version of democracy is based on the Islamic democracy, which espouses “divine sovereignty” rather than “people’s sovereignty”.[10] Nevertheless, Mash’al turned to the Palestinian people and “calmed” them, claiming that Hamas does not intend, at this stage, to apply “Shari’a” (Muslim religious law) in the PA. In his words, “Hamas is aware of the existing situation at this stage, it believes in gradation and does not intend to force its plans on anybody, since the nation itself voted in favor of the armed struggle option.”[11]

In order to prevent turbulence in the PA, especially in the security apparatus, Mash’al declared that “there is no intention to enact a change of personnel in the Palestinian mechanisms, even though it is subject to change.”[12] In regards to this, ‘Atef ‘Adwan, elected to the PLC on the Hamas list from northern Gaza, declared that there is no intention to replace the heads of the Palestinian security network with members of Hamas, even though changes will possibly occur based on criteria of effectiveness, professionalism and incorruptibility.[13]

Mash’al characterized the present period as transitional and warned of any attempt to sabotage Hamas’ victory. According to him, the forming of the Palestinian government will take place over a number of weeks or even months, and until then all of the authorities will remain under the previous government. Mash’al called upon Fatah to join the future government, and rejected criticism that the Hamas invitation stems from Hamas’ inability to manage the PA alone.[14] He presented three primary goals that Hamas must fulfill throughout its service in the government: first, improving the situation of the Palestinian people in all aspects. Secondly, continuing the armed struggle. Third, “cleaning house” in the various bodies of the PA followed by the rebuilding of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which Hamas will be a part of.[15]

Borders of the Palestinian state and the return of Hamas leaders to the Territories

Khalid Mash’al declared that “the map of Palestine is the known map as it existed during the British Mandate” (in other words, from the sea to the river – author’s note.). According to him, “we believe in operating in stages, gradually and realistically. We can achieve our rights step by step and establish our state, on the condition that there will be sovereignty.”[16]

Mash’al denied the existence of plans to return to the Territories, and said that “once Hamas decides to return its leaders to the Territories, it will choose the appropriate path and the right time to do so.” Furthermore he added that “the return is a right that we will fight for, although it will be carried out at the right time…we trust those that are present in the Territories and Hamas does not need an irresponsible migration from abroad.”[17]

Establishing a Palestinian army for a future state

Mash’al noted that Hamas is ready to collect the arms from the Palestinian street and to unite the various military wings of all organizations into one Palestinian army, “as exists in other countries.” This army will operate, according to him, to liberate the rest of the Palestinian Territories, to defend the Palestinian people and to return the Palestinians’ rights. As such, he will oversee the arms that will be collected from the public. Mash’al noted that the establishment of a Palestinian army will not interfere with the role of the “‘Iz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades”, the military wing of Hamas, who “will continue to defend the Palestinian people.”[18]

Summary and Conclusion

Despite declarations on the part of Hamas leaders that it is willing to fulfill all of the commitments of the previous government, there is a clear contradiction here, since these commitments contradict two main principles central to the movement’s charter: non-recognition of Israel and continuance of the armed struggle against it.

Hamas’ calls for the “Hudna” with Israel is merely an ancient maneuver commonly used by radical Islamic organizations to reestablish and strengthen their power without being exposed to danger from their adversaries. The “Hudna” is intended to serve the step by step program that Hamas advocates for the liberation of all of Palestine, from the sea to the river. This is evident in Mash’al’s words: “we believe in operating in steps, gradually, and realistically. We can achieve our rights step by step and establish our state, on the condition that there will be sovereignty.”


[1]”Hamas tahuthu al-ruba’iyya ‘ala taqdim al-da’m al-mali lil-falastiniyin” (“Hamas urges the Quartet to present the financial aid to the Palestinians”), al-Jazeera, (January 30, 2006); “Hamas tarfudu da’wat al-ruba’iyya” (“Hamas rejects the Quartet’s exclamation”), al-Ayyam (PA), (January 31, 2006); “Hamas tarfudu matalib al-lajnah al-ruba’iyya”, (“Hamas rejects the demands of the Quartet”), BBCArabic, (January 31, 2006); “Mash’al: Sanata’amal bi-waqi’iyya shadida ma’a waqi’ Uslu wa-sanas’i li-i’adat tartib awda’ Munathamat al-Tahrir” (“Mash’al: We will act realistically with the situation written to us by Oslo and will operate to reorganize the PLO”), al-Ayyam (PA), (January 29, 2006); “risala ila al-lajnah al- ruba’iyya al-mun’aqad fi Dafus” (“Letter to the Quartet committee that is taking place in Davos”),The Palestinian Information Center, (January 30, 2006).

[2]”Hamas urges the Quartet to present the financial aid to the Palestinians”, Ibid; “Mishaal: Those abandoning our people will regret when Hamas succeeds”, The Palestinian Information Center, (January 28, 2006).

[3]”Hamas tuwajjihu dughutan min duwal ‘arabiyya ba’da al-gharbiyya” (“Hamas faces pressure from Arab countries following Western countries”), al-Jazeera, (February 2, 2006); “‘Abbas yukariru shurut al-gharb wa-Hamas tarfudu al-imla’at al-musbiqah” (“‘Abbas repeats the Western conditions and Hamas rejects the previous dictations”), al-Jazeera, (February 1, 2006).

[4]”Hamas faces pressure from Arab countries following Western countries”, Ibid; “Haniyya: Nekhabed heskemim she-meshartim et ha-‘am ha-falastini” (“Haniyya: We will respect agreements that serve the Palestinian people”), Walla, (February 2, 2006).

[5]”Mash’al: We will act realistically with the situation written to us by Oslo and will operate to reorganize the PLO”.

[6]”Mash’al: We will act realistically with the situation written to us by Oslo and will operate to reorganize the PLO”.

[7]”Mash’al: We will act realistically with the situation written to us by Oslo and will operate to reorganize the PLO”.

[8]”Isra’il tusadir amwalan lil-sulta wa-Merkel tatajanab liqa’ Hamas” (“Israel confiscates funds of the Palestinian Authority and Merkel avoids meeting with the Hamas”),al-Jazeera, (January 30, 2006); “Mash’al ya’rudu ‘ala Isra’il Hudna mashrutah” (“Mash’al offers Israel a conditional armistice”),BBCArabic, (January 31, 2006).

[9]Michael, Lecker, “The Hudaybiyya-Treaty and The Expedition against Khaybar”, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 5, (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1984), pp. 2, 5; W. Montgomery, Watt, “al-Hudaybiya”, in B. Lewis, Ch. Pellat, J. Schacht and V. L. Menage (eds), The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. 3, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1971), p. 539.

[10]”Mishaal: Those abandoning our people will regret when Hamas succeeds”, Ibid.

[11]”Mash’al: We will act realistically with the situation written to us by Oslo and will operate to reorganize the PLO”.

[12]”Mash’al: Musta’idun li-tawhid al-silah wa-khalq jaysh falastini” (“Mash’al: Willing to collect the arms and establish a Palestinian army”), al-‘Arabiyya, (January 28, 2006).

[13]”Hamas tukhatit li-wad’ bunya qanuniyya li-tandhim ‘amal al-ajhiza al-amniyya al-falastiniyya” (“Hamas prepares to setup a legal infrastructure that will regulate operations of Palestinian security mechanisms”),’Iz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, (January 29, 2006).

[14]”Mash’al: We will act realistically with the situation written to us by Oslo and will operate to reorganize the PLO”; “Mash’al: Willing to collect the arms and establish a Palestinian army”, Ibid.

[15]”Abraz nuqat al-mu’tamar al-sahafi li-ra’is al-maktab al-siyasi li-Hamas” (“The prominent points of the news conference of the head of Hamas’ political bureau”), al-Jazeera, (January 28, 2006); “Hamas tatamasak bil-shirakah wa-tarfud ‘al-ibtizaz’ al-gharbi” (“Hamas adheres to partnership and rejects the Western ‘extortion'”), al-Jazeera, (January 28, 2006).

[16]”Mash’al: Willing to collect the arms and establish a Palestinian army”, Ibid.

[17]”Mash’al: We will act realistically with the situation written to us by Oslo and will operate to reorganize the PLO”.

[18]”Mishaal: Hamas ready to unite weapons under one national liberation army”, The Palestinian Information Center, (January 24, 2006); “Mishaal: Hamas’ entry to PLC first step of comprehensive reform and change in PA”, The Palestinian Information Center, (January 29, 2006); “Mash’al: Willing to collect the arms and establish a Palestinian army”, Ibid.