The Palestinian group Hamas has announced a cessation in rocket fire into Israel this week as Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas, in exile in Syria, repeated that Hamas is seeking an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel along the pre-1967 border.
In June 1967, Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where Palestinians now seek to establish their own state. The illegal Israeli occupation continues to hamper their aspirations for democracy and statehood, however.
Israel withdrew forces from Gaza in 2005 and dismantled settlements there, only to place the densely populated territory under siege. On December 27 last year, Israel launched a major military operation against Gaza, dubbed “Operation Cast Lead”, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,300 Palestinians, nearly a third of whom were children.
Israel’s operation has drawn heavy criticism from human rights groups, including for indiscriminate attacks against a civilian population, the use of white phosphorus as a weapon, and targeting protected sites such as schools and hospitals.
In June of last year, Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire, but Israel never honored the truce. During the first week of the truce, Israeli forces fired upon civilians in Gaza. Israel also never lifted the siege, another condition of the cease-fire. On November 4, Israel launched an air attack and ground incursion into Gaza, effectively ending the cease-fire as violence escalated in the weeks that followed.
“I promise the American administration and the international community that we will be part of the solution, period”,Meshal told the New York Times in an interview this week.
Of Hamas, Meshal said, “It has accepted a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders including East Jerusalem, dismantling settlements, and the right of return based on a long term truce.”
Explaining why he gave the interview, Meshal said, “To understand Hamas is to listen to its vision directly. Hamas is delighted when people want to hear from its leaders directly, not about the movement through others.”
Western media accounts typically report that Hamas seeks to destroy Israel. Another New York Times report earlier this week, for instance, stated that Hamas, along with the group Hezbollah in Lebanon, “reject Israel’s existence and seek its destruction”.
In fact, Hamas has long declared its intention to seek a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In early 2005, Hamas issued a document stating that goal and recognizing the 1967 borders.
In early 2006, Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar publically stated that Hamas was seeking a Palestinian state and would accept a long-term truce with Israel if it withdrew from the territories occupied in ’67.
The leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh reiterated in an interview with the Washington Post in February 2006 that Hamas accepted agreements seeking “the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital with 1967 borders”.
“We do not have any feelings of animosity toward Jews”, he also said. “We do not wish to throw them into the sea. All we seek is to be given our land back, not to harm anybody.”
Former President Jimmy Carter met with Hamas officials in April 2008, who, “said they would accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders,” according to Carter, and would “accept the right of Israel to live as a neighbor next door in peace” if Israel withdrew. Carter said Hamas’ “ultimate goal is to see Israel living in their allocated borders, the 1967 borders, and a contiguous, vital Palestinian state alongside.”
Khaled Meshal said at that time, “We accept a state on the June 4 [1967 armistice] line with Jerusalem as capital, real sovereignty and full right of return for refugees but without recognizing Israel … We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition”.
Hamas’ oft-repeated position of seeking a Palestinian state alongside Israel, while occasionally reported in the U.S. media, is typically ignored in favor of the virtually obligatory line that Hamas rejects Israel’s existence and seeks its destruction, which is more amenable to U.S. support for Israel’s often criminal policies and refusal to work with Hamas in bringing about an end to the cycle of violence and seeking the realization of a Palestinian state.