Even as a top Hamas official warned Monday against Palestinian acceptance of an American “framework” peace agreement, West Bank leaders were asserting that the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip would in fact back a peace deal with Israel based on “national principles.”
Hamas’s deputy political bureau chief, Moussa Abu Marzouk, called the anticipated American document “very dangerous,” saying it would decimate the Palestinian cause through the final status issues.
“I believe that those who turned to negotiations despite [the objection] of all [Palestinian] factions, the PLO’s Executive Committee and many members of Fatah, will not hesitate to sign an agreement despite all of the above,” Abu Marzouk told Hamas’s Al-Resalah newspaper.
Nevertheless, PA President Mahmoud Abbas expressed confidence during a speech to Israeli students and activists in Ramallah Sunday that Hamas would back an agreement with Israel on a two-state solution.
That position was reiterated by Fatah officials present in the hall during Abbas’s speech. Asked whether Hamas would endorse an agreement with Israel, Azzam Al-Ahmad, Fatah’s chief negotiator with Hamas, was unhesitating.
“Of course they’ll join, why wouldn’t they?” he said. “They will be obligated by the decisions of the Palestinian leadership. I am confident of this. In my opinion, the real impediment to peace is not Hamas but [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the extremist right-wing government in Israel.”
Al-Ahmad pointed out that Hamas’s political leader, Khaled Mashaal, accepted the two-state principle in the reconciliation agreement signed with Fatah in Cairo in 2011.
“One of the issues we agreed on was the right of the Palestinian people to a state on the June 4, 1967, borders,” he said. “Mashaal declared this publicly during his speech at the signing ceremony on May 4, 2011.”
The acceptance of a two-state outcome, Al-Ahmad continued, was reaffirmed by West Bank Hamas official Hassan Youssef, recently released from an Israeli prison, in an interview with Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia earlier this month.
With regard to Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks, Al-Ahmad was less optimistic. He said that Hamas had agreed to hold elections six months after the formation of a unity government headed by Abbas, but was reluctant to implement the agreement on the ground.
“After Hamas’s agreement [to elections within six months] I was told to wait. I called [Hamas Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh four times and never heard back from him,” Al-Ahmad told The Times of Israel.
Fatah Central Committee member Mohammed Al-Madani, who returned last week from talks with Hamas in Gaza, said attitudes in the Strip have changed dramatically amid political turmoil in Egypt since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi on July 3, 2013.
“I think things now are better than they were in the past. There is a positive understanding among the Hamas leadership; their positions have changed on many issues,” Al-Madani told The Times of Israel.
Munib Al-Masri, a Palestinian billionaire and political independent, returned from talks with Hamas’s leadership in Gaza earlier this month confident that the Islamic movement was behind the two-state paradigm based on the “Palestinian principles” of a state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.
“Not only Ismail Haniyeh told me this, but the entire Hamas leadership,” Al-Masri told The Times of Israel.