JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—In a rare interview with an American Jewish newspaper, Hamas deputy politburo chief Mousa Abu Marzouk declared Friday that his terrorist organization would never recognize Israel and would not accept any future peace treaty between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
The most Hamas would be willing to contribute to the peace process, Abu Marzouk told The Jewish Daily Forward, would be a limited cease-fire, or hudna, such as the ones Israel maintains with Lebanon and Syria.
Marzouk is the second highest official in Hamas. He has been listed as a Specially Designated Terrorist by the United States since 1995.
As hard-line as Abu Marzouk’s statements, they could also be interpreted as an attempt to show willingness to reduce tensions with Israel, following Israel’s devastating response to recent rocket barrages by Hamas and its Gaza proxies against civilian targets in southern Israel.
Whatever the organization’s actual intentions, its ongoing refusal to recognize Israel keeps it below the Mideast Quartet’s minimal standards for joining peace negotiations. The Quartet—the US, Russia, the EU, and the UN—has set three conditions, none of which Hamas is prepared to meet: ending violence, recognizing Israel, and upholding previous agreements.
Although Hamas has floated the trial balloon of a truce instead of a peace agreement several times since 1994, Abu Marzouk for the first time characterized the nature of such a truce. By comparing it the Israel’s armistice agreements with Lebanon and Syria—which have lasted for decades—he seemed to imply that this would be a possible interim solution.
What was left unsaid, however, was that Hamas considers such a truce to be temporary. It would last just as long as it takes for Hamas to feel sufficiently strong to resume its armed struggle against Israel—in accordance with its charter’s call for Israel’s destruction.
“We will not recognize Israel as a state. It will be like the relationship between Lebanon and Israel or Syria and Israel,” Abu Marzouk told the Forward.
Asked about the Hamas charter’s anti-Semitic references to Jews and calls to “wipe out the Zionist entity” (Hamas-speak for Israel), Abu Marzouk said the charter does not govern his organization, which he described as a kind of work in progress. “There are many Hamas people talking about changing the charter,” he insisted, because there are many policies “against what’s written in the charter.”
The apparent lack of a rigorous party line regarding the Hamas charter may be an indication of the current instability in the organization due to two important recent events. The first is the uprising in Syria, where Hamas has been forced to abandon its long-time headquarters and whose leaders are seeking to reestablish operations elsewhere in the Middle East.
The second is Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal’s announcement of his impending retirement. Abu Marzouk seeks to replace him.