Hamas and the Importance of the Arab and Palestinian Message

  • 22 March 2006

The Arab message received by Hamas, after its victory in the recent elections, underscores the importance of a review of its policies, respect for earlier agreements with Israel and acceptance of the principle of negotiations. This is the only approach that will be acceptable to the world and will persuade it to continue aiding Palestinians. Similarly, it is the only way by which Hamas can convey a reassuring message to the international community and thwart Israel's attempt to present the group as a 'terrorist' movement, with whom it is impossible to negotiate.

In addition to the Arab message, which was also communicated by Russia during a recent visit by a Hamas delegation to Moscow, there is a Palestinian message that has an even greater significance. An opinion poll carried out by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) and published recently, indicated that 75% of the respondents wanted Hamas to engage in peace negotiations with Israel.

Political necessity is another factor that underscores the importance of the case. It appears that Hamas is finding it difficult to offer a comprehensive and convincing vision of its stand to Israel. This is because it has contested the recent elections and joined the Palestinian political process on the basis of the "Oslo" framework, which implies a recognition of Israel and acceptance of a Palestinian state  within the limits of June 4, 1967 position and underlines the fact that peaceful struggle is the only way for the restoration of Palestinian rights. The continuing hesitation of Hamas in expressing a clear and final stand towards Israel will place the movement in a self-contradictory position in front of the whole world and the Palestinians. Such hesitation will allow Israel the opportunity to suggest that the movement has used the political process to grab power without accepting the framework for which these mechanisms were developed. Besides, it will weaken the stand of Arab parties that advocate the Palestinian cause before the world and insist on major powers and Israel to give a chance to Hamas and respect the election results.

Although Israel wants the international community to put pressure on Hamas into recognizing the Israeli state, it does not want Hamas to take this step and even resorts to provocative measures to this end. Hamas is required to beware of this policy. It should realize that with leadership come responsibilities and that, in this case, Palestinian interests are at risk. It should also realize that the assistance extended by others depend on its ability to help itself, and that there isn't much time for it to make big decisions.