Hamas official claims it rejected Egyptian deal to avoid recognizing Israel

Islamist group couldn’t accept Cairo proposal because it included acceptance of Israel, says Abu Marzouk, but official ceasefire text makes no such demand

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk (AP/Hatem Moussa)
Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk (AP/Hatem Moussa)

The Egyptian ceasefire proposal put forward on July 15 included a preamble calling on Hamas to recognize Israel on the 1967 borders and for the resumption of peace talks, conditions Hamas could not agree to, the movement’s deputy political chief claimed.

In a largely overlooked Facebook post on Saturday, Cairo-based Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, said that Hamas could not “recognize the legitimacy” of international demands to accept Israel on the 1967 borders, “norms that the resistance refuses to acknowledge.”

“[Hamas] has suffered siege, killing and arrests for its refusal [to recognize Israel]. Had it accepted these conditions following its victory in the 2006 elections it could have entered the White House and received red carpet welcomes in all world capitals,” Abu Marzouk wrote.

“Accepting this now would mean that Israel and the US have succeeded in imposing recognition of [Israel’s] legitimate existence on the 1967 borders through a ceasefire initiative; something they have not been able to do through siege and repeated wars.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri in Cairo on July 22, 2014. (photo credit: AFP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri in Cairo on July 22, 2014. (photo credit: AFP)

However, the Arabic version of the Egyptian ceasefire initiative published on Egypt’s Foreign Ministry website made no reference to Israeli borders or to the resumption of peace talks.

In his message, Abu Marzouk went to great pains to explain why Hamas had accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in November 2012, but decided to reject the new Egyptian initiative now.

The 2014 Egyptian proposal, for instance, made the opening of Gaza’s border crossings contingent upon a state of security; a condition Hamas could not live with, he wrote.

“The current [Egyptian] initiative links the opening of crossings with security, while the entire region lacks security,” he wrote. “This means that crossings will never be opened. In the previous initiative [in 2012] it was not linked to any condition.”

Accepting the Egyptian demand for an immediate ceasefire would leave Hamas with no bargaining chips for the negotiation round that is to follow, he wrote.

“We believe that the [Egyptian] initiative was drafted to embarrass Hamas. For if Hamas rejects it, that will give Benjamin Netanyahu the green light to strike the Gaza Strip; whereas if Hamas accepts it, that would be as though Hamas surrendered and declared its defeat, since we will have nothing to put on the table and negotiate over. At that point, the Gazans will have lost everything.”

Insisting that there still “could be no solution without Egypt,” Abu Marzouk nevertheless noted that Egypt has drastically changed its attitude towards Hamas since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.

Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, and Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, left, wave to the crowd as they meet in Gaza City on Friday (photo credit: AP/Adel Hana)
Gaza’s former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (right) meets former Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil in Gaza during operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012 (photo credit: AP/Adel Hana)

In 2012, Egypt “stood alongside the resistance [Hamas]”, with Prime Minister Hisham Kandil visiting Gaza as it was being bombarded by Israel during operation Pillar of Defense. Today, Egypt has referred to Hamas’s attacks in its initiative as “aggression,” a term only Israel used back in 2012.

“Currently, unfortunately, [Egypt’s] position is different. Egyptian media is waging war on the Resistance, accusing Hamas of killing the Palestinian people and colluding with Israel … while in reality Hamas along with the other resistance movements is protecting its people.”

Previously, Hamas officials and its media had explained the movement’s rejection of a humanitarian truce offered by Israel by claiming that temporary moves weaken the fighting spirit of Hamas fighters and denigrate Palestinian sacrifices.

On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry presented a new ceasefire initiative adopting many of Hamas’s demands. Israel rejected the draft, while Hamas did not officially respond to it. The US later said it was not a formal proposal.

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