Hamas and the Peace Process

Earlier today, Khaled Meshal, the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, announced that his fighters would stop firing rockets at Israel for the time being.  In an interview with the New York Times, he also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying that Hamas was only seeking a state in territory captured by Israel in 1967.

“I promise the American administration and the international community that we will be part of the solution, period,” he said.  “We are with a state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce.  This includes East Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.”

He also suggested that the international community should ignore Hamas’ charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel through jihad.

Meshal’s comments appear to be a positive step forward in the peace process, but some of his other statements are cause for concern.  He defined “long term” as merely 10 years and refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist.  His insistence on the so-called “right of return” as a condition for a peace agreement is also problematic given that Israel will not make that concession due to concerns about demographic changes; an influx of Palestinian refugees could ultimately help make Arabs the majority ethnic group in Israel.

Hamas is a major political player in Israel-Palestine that currently rules Gaza, one of two territories primarily controlled by Palestinians; the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, is a much more moderate group that has recognized Israel and seeks a two-state solution that is supported by outside powers.  Israeli officials and other leaders are skeptical that Hamas would abide by any peace agreement between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a fact which will make the goal of ending the decades-long conflict difficult to achieve in the near term.

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