Rethinking Hamas: What Should Europe Stand For?

Written by | Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization, has recently published a ”Document of General Principles and Policies” in which it outlined its positions on Israel. After three years of internal consultations, the document was rolled out in English on Twitter with a clear intention to reach international audiences. As such, the new document can pave the way for engagement with the international community and eventually lead to the recognition of Hamas.

Hamas itself described the document as transformative, setting out new policy positions on Israel and the two-state solution. For example, it emphasizes Hamas’s problem with Zionism not the Jewish people and widely accepts a two-state solution, saying that “the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4 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”.

Moreover, Hamas endorsed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a “national framework for the Palestinian people inside and outside of Palestine” and urged the building of “Palestinian national institutions on sound democratic principles, foremost among them free and fair elections.” This shift towards more pragmatic positions should be welcomed by international players including the European Union. However, the international community should not lose sight of demanding any Palestinian government to recognize Israel, abide by previous diplomatic deals and condemn violence.

Europe should also ask Hamas to clarify the existing ambiguities and contradictions found in the document as well as repeal its 1988 Charter that includes anti-Semitic rhetoric and adopt the new pragmatic positions instead. The EU ought to think twice about its no-contact policy towards the organization, which prevents both sides from having a dialogue without an intermediary. Allowing for a joint and direct communication platform would send an important signal that Brussels is willing and ready to engage with Hamas and even empower its moderate elements.

However, according to some observers, the EU should rather drop the conditions of recognition of Israel and abiding by previous agreements. In their opinion, these should exclusively apply to the Palestinian Authority government and not to Hamas as a political group. Clarifying such a detail could help overcome what is regarded as one of the main obstacles in holding elections and achieving national reunification that benefits from international acceptance.

‘Time to Bring Hamas in From the Cold’ – Commentary by Hugh Lovatt – European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

(The Commentary can be downloaded here)

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