Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hamas: Ceasefire changes nothing

By Donald Sensing

The ceasefire brokered yesterday between Hamas and Israel makes Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, its architect, look good. But it changes nothing on the ground. The Jerusalem Post reports,

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared a position on Palestinian statehood that is nearly identical to that of his Fatah rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview with CNN aired Wednesday.

"I accept a Palestinian state according [to] the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital, with the right to return," the Hamas leader told Christine Amanpour in Cairo.

Pushed about his party's refusal to recognize Israel, Mashaal said such a declaration could only be made once a Palestinian state has been created.

"After this state is established, it decides its standing toward Israel," the Hamas leader said.
All this means is that Mashaal has started a PR offensive. This "new" position changes nothing regarding Hamas' stand toward Israel. Consider:
Asked if Hamas is willing to renounce violence, he said, "We are ready to resort to a peaceful way, purely peaceful way without blood or weapons."

Such a move, however, would be conditional on the attainment of Palestinian national demands, namely, "the elimination of occupation and the (creation of a) Palestinian state and ending the occupation and the wall."
So let's deconstruct this and see why not even the peace factions in Israel will fall for it.

1. a Palestinian state according [to] the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital, with the right to return

The myth of the 1967 borders

There are no "1967 borders." What are inexplicably called "borders" are really just a ceasefire line drawn in 1949 at the end of Israel's first war for independence. The lines were drawn on a map with a green pencil, hence their former name, now rarely used, of the "green line." The armistice explicitly recognized that the line was not a territorial border and was of no significance except as a military demarcation line. To this day there is no international agreement recognizing the lines as international borders.

In 1967's Six Day War, Israel advanced into the West Bank, then usually called the Transjordan, and entered Jerusalem, the capital of biblical Israel. In the south, Israel also captured the entire Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. It has since withdrawn altogether from both. Israel has mostly withdrawn from the West Bank, but retains possession of Jerusalem, which it has made its capital city. There are also a number of Israeli towns that have been built inside the West Bank. Most of the West Bank is actually entirely autonomous under the rule of the Palestinian Authority or is mostly so.

There has never been a Palestinian state of any kind, anywhere, ever. The UN resolution creating Israel in 1948 included the authority to create a homeland for Arabs not wishing to live inside the Jewish state. This was 100 percent rejected by Arab governments. It was again rejected by then-leader of the Palestinian Authority, Yasir Arafat, in 1998 at the Wye River negotiations under the auspices of the Clinton administration.

Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital

What Hamas' Maashal is saying is that all Israelis must withdraw completely not only from the West Bank but from Jerusalem. This is quite simply impossible, since the remains of the ancient Temple are there, the holiest site in Judaism. It would be like a demand that Muslims permanently evacuate Mecca.

Such a "border" adjustment would also mean Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights bordering Syria. Possession of the Heights is central to Israel's security to the north.

The "right to return"

The "right to return" is the claimed right of Palestinians to return to homes inside Israel that they vacated because of the 1948 war. Most left of their own volition, having been encouraged by Arab governments. Others were removed by the nascent Israeli army because of military necessity. This is how the West Bank and Gaza came to be filled with Palestinians.

UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of December 1948 is claimed as the basis. It states in part, "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date... ." Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas say that this return is a requirement of international law that Israel may not rightfully deny, and that the right is inheritable by the descendants of the original refugees.

On the other hand, UN General Assembly resolutions have never been afforded the weight given to binding resolutions of the UN Security Council, nor have refugees' rights ever before been extended to their descendants. Israel retorts as well that "should be permitted" does not equal must be permitted, and that the return is in any case prior dependent upon the refugees' willingness to live at peace inside Israel (meaning, Israel as a Jewish state).

To Hamas and the PA, the "right of return" means the removal of Jews from Israel while filling it with Palestinians.

2. Peace is contingent upon "the elimination of occupation and the (creation of a) Palestinian state and ending the occupation and the wall."

Usually, western commentators speak of "ending the occupation" as meaning the withdrawal of Israelis from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, that is, a return of the Jews to within the pre-1967 military demarcation line. This is not what Maashal means. Historically, Hamas has equated "occupation" with the simple existence of a Jewish state to begin with. That is, all of the state of Israel is an occupation of land that rightfully belongs to Palestinians.

"Ending the occupation" means to Hamas the disestablishment of Israel as an independent Jewish entity and the ejection of all Jews from the Levant, nothing less.

Hamas has always referred to a Palestinian state as one that encompasses all of present Israel, plus the West Bank and Gaza.

All of which means that nothing Maashal has said changes any of the precepts of the Hamas charter or its basic aims. Maashal has simply used language designed to tickle western ears to say that it will accept a period of respite before resuming its war.


The Telegraph

My Hamas-related posts

Myth of the 1967 Borders

Background paper on Arabs and Israelis

Mort Zuckerman: "Gaza Ceasefire Doesn’t Solve the Fundamental Problem"

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