Hamas, at least according to one increasingly popular line of reasoning in both the U.S. and Europe, is supposed to be turning more moderate because of its governance responsibilities in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, many commentators claimed to see evidence of its growing maturity in its decision to agree with Israel on a relatively fast cease-fire deal after the most recent round of fighting. Many call for engaging in negotiations with Hamas on the assumption that it is tacitly accepting a two-state solution.
Such analysis has always appeared to be the triumph of hope over experience and never more so than following Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal’s triumphal homecoming to the Gaza Strip–a territory he had never previously visited in his life but where he exercises a large degree of influence. His speech, to mark the 25th anniversary of Hamas’s founding, was not exactly a model of moderation. Here is what he had to say:
Mr. Meshal said the Jewish state would be wiped away through “resistance,” or military action. “The state will come from resistance, not negotiation,” he said. “Liberation first, then statehood.”
His voice rising to a shout, Mr. Meshal said: “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land.” He vowed that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants would one day return to their original homes in what is now Israel.
“We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation, and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take,” he said. “We will free Jerusalem inch by inch, stone by stone. Israel has no right to be in Jerusalem.”
On one level there is nothing terribly surprising in his remarks: they are simply an affirmation of everything Hamas has stood for throughout its existence. But they should give pause, at least for a little bit, to those naive analysts who think that Hamas is somehow moderating. Hamas is quite capable of reaching temporary cease-fires or prisoner releases with Israel in its own tactical interest. But it shows no sign of giving up its goal of annihilating the Israeli state. That is not an acceptable basis for peace talks.