Would Hamas ever recognize Israel and conclude peace agreements with it?

  December 16, 2021   Read time 2 min
Would Hamas ever recognize Israel and conclude peace agreements with it?
It is not inconceivable that Hamas would recognize Israel. Hamas’s pragmatism and its realistic approach to issues leave ample room for such a development. Yet most of the conditions that could create a conducive climate for such a step lie in the hands of the Israelis.

As long as Israel refuses to acknowledge the basic rights of the Palestinian people in any end result based on the principle of a two-state solution, it is inconceivable that Hamas will recognize Israel. Despite the often-cited rhetoric in Hamas’s discourse about the impossibility of recognizing Israel, there actually is a visible thread of thinking that offers just such a possibility, though only if Israel reciprocated positively. After assuming his new post in early April 2006, Hamas’s foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahhar sent a letter to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, declaring that his government would be willing to live in peace, side by side with ‘its neighbours’, based on a two-state solution. However, other statements attributed to Hamas leaders have implied that the issue of recognizing Israel should be one of the goals of negotiations, not the prerequisite to them.

If Israel shows no interest in dealing with Hamas, and insists on ‘unilateral measures’ that perpetuate the occupational status quo, Hamas will never recognize Israel. If this were to be the only proffered political climate, the maximum that the movement could accept would be a long-term truce, and it would avoid and evade recognizing Israel to the end. That a peace treaty could be concluded between Israel and Hamas, however, is not implausible. Hamas enjoys influence, legitimacy and a clean record in governance among the Palestinians, furnishing it with the political capital needed to negotiate with Israel. Attempting to find some leeway between its past declarations about non-recognition of Israel and the pressing realities at hand, the movement has created a distinction between the government of Hamas and Hamas as an organization. Implicitly, this means that Hamas’s government is ready to go beyond the standard and well-known declarations of Hamas as a party. Yet again, the extent to which Hamas could go down the course of negotiating with Israel is strongly contingent on the positions offered by the latter.

To reconcile the extreme of the liberation of the entire historic land of Palestine with the realities of the existence of Israel on the ground, Hamas has suggested resorting to a national referendum on the final settlement to be concluded by Israel and the Palestinians. The democratically elected Hamas will abide by whatever the Palestinian people decide concerning their own fate, in a free and democratic referendum. By Hamas’s way of thinking, the referendum idea is a decent solution to the theoretical and practical impasse that could result, and be exclusively, if wrongly, put down to Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel and accept the principle of a two-state solution. If peace talks led to the drafting of a peace treaty that required the ‘negotiating parties’ to recognize each other (and it was a treaty in which Palestinian rights were acknowledged and granted in a manner likely to be satisfactory to the Palestinians), then Hamas would accept any decision taken by the people on such a treaty via the mechanism of a referendum. Hamas as an organization says publicly that under such conditions it would have no choice but to respect the will and decision endorsed by the Palestinian people.

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