Pan-Arab media has reported that Hamas has been rewriting its Charter. Purported changes would accept an Israeli state within 1967 border (though not formally recognize Israel). They would also eliminate offensive statements blaming Jews for oppressing the Palestinians. It would also renounce Hamas’ former bond with the Muslim Brotherhood.
This new initiative appears odd at first glance, given that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians is moribund. With Israel’s extremist government and the new U.S. president, the region hasn’t been farther away from a peace deal in ages.
But there are other political developments moving this rapprochement forward. Most focus on Hamas-Egyptian relations. There are several important things each side seeks from the other: first, Hamas is being strangled by the siege from both the Israel and Egyptian sides. If Egypt would relieve the blockade the Gaza economy would markedly improve and offer huge political benefits to Hamas by offering relief to Gazans.
Egypt faces an enormous internal security threat from Islamists roaming the Sinai who’ve killed hundreds of police and army personnel. Coptic Christians were killed in the most recent attack. Until recently, because Hamas’ sole form of income was the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, it would permit the free flow of arms and militants from its side to the Egyptian. From there, according to media reports, the terrorists would enter Egypt and engage in acts of terror in Sinai. If Egypt can shut off this source of men and munitions, it might eliminate or drastically reduce the Sinai terror threat.
How will this affect Egypt-Israel relations? Israel has an exceedingly close relationship with the military junta. It has attacked Sinai militants on Egyptian soil on behalf of the al-Sisi regime. It shares intelligence information on such threats as well. Israel hates Hamas. Therefore, Israel cannot welcome this reconciliation. I’m curious how it will respond to these overtures.
If I told you the number of times such promising developments were announced, only to have them come to naught, you’d wouldn’t believe me. So all this may end up amounting to nothing. Or if this is realized, it could portend a major thawing in relations between Hamas and the outside world. For example, the EU might reconsider Hamas’ listing as a terrorist organization. This, in turn, would further isolate the U.S. and Israel as the rejectionists when it comes to dialogue with the Palestinians.
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