Hamas policy update; Strategic withdrawal or change in tactics?

Iranian Diplomacy- On Monday, Palestinian militant group Hamas unveiled a new policy document, accepting for the first time the idea of a Palestinian state that would fall within the borders that existed in 1967, CNN reported.

The immediate response in Iran’s cybersphere was tinted with a sense of being betrayed. However, Iranian analysts cautiously viewed the policy update, as a timely shift that could even bring positive results.

After a relatively thorough recap of the Hamas policy document, Kayhan cites unnamed analysts who believe the repeated emphasis on the organization’s jihadist identity is, before anything else, an effort to appease the Islamic Republic, as the only real state supporter of Palestinian jihad.

Kayhan goes on arguing that Hamas has sought alliance with Egypt, by calling itself Islamic but refusing to mention the Muslim Brotherhood. The article also suggests that Hamas’ bid to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders indicates the organization’s effort to align itself with the Palestinian National Authority, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar.

Kayhan refuses to deem the decision as the organization’s withdrawal from the 1948 borders. The fourth point highlighted in Kayhan is the distinct line drawn in the policy update between Judaism and Zionism, which puts on display a progressive gesture in the West’s public opinion. Asserting that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, and Jordan will doubtlessly recognize Israel within the 1948 borders, a definite no-go for Israel, the article concludes that the most optimistic interpretation that can be given on the document is that Hamas is maintaining strategy but shifting tactics.

Hamshahri Online, the organ of Tehran Municipality, has sought commentary from Anis al-Naqqash, Lebanese analyst and former guerilla fighter. “With no doubt, the Hamas movement will still pursue the complete liberation of all Palestinian lands, considering all sorts of resistance, including armed resistance, an inalienable right of the Palestinian nation.

On the other hand, it is obvious that the tone in Hamas document is significantly different with the movement’s past discourse,” Naqqash told Hamshahri in a brief interview. Elsewhere in the interview, Naqqash speaks of an internal divide in the organization, induced by pressures from Turkey and Qatar. However, he believes that Hamas will not follow Fatah in abandoning jihad, because they know any gap in resistance will be immediately filled by the Palestinian nation.

A pro-Rouhani e-daily, called Omid Iranian, has published an interview with Middle East analyst Ghassem Mohebali who believes Hamas is on the same path the Palestine Liberation Organization went through in the long run. “One can conclude that the issuance of the new policy document is practically a major shift and a turning point in the history of the Hamas movement since its establishment. In fact, looking at the document, one can see that the movement has de facto recognized the existence of a country named Israel and is ready to tolerate it. That is what the establishment of the Palestinian state within the 1967 border has to mean,” says the former director of the MFA’s Middle East and North African department.

Mohebali also finds the recent shift to be a multifaceted survival strategy: “The recognition of Israel within the 1967 borders and the elimination of the Muslim Brotherhood from the document are both ways to facilitate the survival of Hamas. International pressure on the group will ease, and the organization can mend ties with Arab countries. It can improve relations with Egypt, as the only country sharing land border with the Gaza Strip, as well as with Saudi Arabia, a notorious enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood. Of course, it remains to be seen whether the elimination of the Brotherhood could have an effect on Hamas’ relations with states that Support the Brotherhood, i.e. Turkey and Qatar.” Asked if the recent gesture is in the interest of Hamas Organization, Mohebali says the shift could help international mediators gain the upper hand in their effort to revive the peace process, and put an end to the Zionist regime’s pretexts.

In an op-ed published in Iran daily, organ of the Iranian administration, Iran’s former ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammadali Mohtadi calls the new move a strategic withdrawal. He discusses the plight of the Gaza Strip in detail, as an important reason that has forced Hamas to back down from its original pledge. He also notes the movement’s past measures in abandoning the Damascus axis and joining that of Doha and Ankara. Pointing out visits to Washington made by Mahmoud Abbas and Turkey’s Erdogan, Mohtadi finds the two countries’ pressure on Hamas and promises to resolve the problems through talks as major factors. “They want to pretend that the card of Hamas’ Islamic resistance is in their hand, in the hope to get concessions from the US president,” he adds.