Fatah demands ‘softened’ Hamas apologize for treason accusations

After terror group seems to align with stance taken by more moderate rival in 1988, spokesman says decades of criticism should be atoned for

Hamas and Fatah officials discuss reconciliation in Gaza, Tuesday, April 22, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Hamas and Fatah officials discuss reconciliation in Gaza, Tuesday, April 22, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Mahmud Hams)

A Palestinian official demanded Hamas apologize for accusing rival Fatah of treason, after the terror group released a platform Monday that put it more in line with positions taken by the Palestine Liberation Organization decades ago.

“Hamas’s new document is identical to that taken by Fatah in 1988. Hamas is required to make an apology to Fatah after 30 years of accusing us of treason for that policy,” Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasme said Monday, according to Reuters.

In the past, Hamas has sharply criticized Fatah’s political program, which rests on setting up a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, but allows for the existence of an Israeli state.

The new Hamas document accepts the idea of a Palestinian state in territories captured by Israel in that war but dismisses the establishment of the State of Israel as “illegal” and calls for “the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea.” It asserts a Palestinian claim to the entire land of Israel, and a right of return for all descendants of refugees.

The new platform was touted as a moderation of the group’s previous stance, which did not accept even the temporary idea of a Palestinian state only within the 1967 lines. The document also purged some language deemed anti-Semitic.

Israel dismissed the new document as an attempt to “fool the world.”

Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal (R) looks on during a news conference in the Qatari capital, Doha on May 1, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / KARIM JAAFAR)
Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal (R) looks on during a news conference in the Qatari capital, Doha on May 1, 2017 (AFP/Karim Jaafar)

The new platform, which was posted online in English, was presented Monday, amid high tensions between Hamas and Fatah.

The five-page program, a result of four years of internal deliberations, was presented at a news conference in Doha, Qatar, by Khaled Mashaal, the outgoing Hamas leader in exile. The group has said Mashaal’s replacement is to be named later this month, after the completion of secret leadership elections.

“Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” the document states. “However, without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus.”

Hamas officials said the document, which reserves the right to wage “resistance and jihad for the liberation of Palestine,” in no way amounts to recognition of Israel.

In November 1988 the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Yasser Arafat, recognized “those UN resolutions which call for a two-state solution of Israel and Palestine.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses supporters during a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death, at the his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses supporters during a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death, at the his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

The group, which at the time was considered a terror organization by the US, declared that it had “established the independent state of Palestine and accepted the existence of Israel as a state in the region.”

This declaration was sufficient for it to be removed from the US list of terror organizations, allowing America, and later Israel, to enter into direct negotiations with the group.

The two groups have failed to come to terms since Hamas drove out forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in its 2007 takeover of Gaza, a year after defeating Fatah in Palestinian parliament elections. Reconciliation efforts have failed.

In recent weeks, Abbas has threatened to exert financial pressure, including cutting wage payments and aid to Gaza, as a way of forcing Hamas to cede some control of the Strip. Leaders of the group have vowed they will not budge.

The war of words with Hamas was seen as an attempt by Abbas to position himself as a leader of all Palestinians ahead of his first meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday.

The US leader has said he would try to broker Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a peace deal, despite repeated failures over the past two decades.

Raphael Ahren and Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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