UPDATE: It seems that the premise of this post — that Ismail Haniyeh expressed support for the UNGA move planned by PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas — may [or may not] be wrong. A Hamas spokesperson [though not Haniyeh himself] reportedly denied that Haniyeh said this. [AFP reported later that “Last week, Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement denied a report by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya had expressed support for the UN bid in a phone call with Abbas”. The AFP account is posted on the Al-Ahram website here.] This post was amended. But, even later reports suggest that our original reporting was correct. Hamas will at the very least not oppose the move [and may actually even support it]…
Of all the surprises that emerged from the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Clouds, one of the most significant is the pair of statements — after the cease-fire agreement — by the two top Hamas political leaders indicating their support for a Palestinian state.
Hamas was supposed to have done this before [several times], but then swiveled.
Now, just after the cease-fire, Khaled Meshal, long-time head of Hamas political bureau, said Wednesday night in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour: “I support a Palestinian state in 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital + the right to return”. This was posted at here. This interview can also be viewed here.
Amanpour was part of the caravan of top media stars who had flocked to Israel and to Gaza, with their entourage of producers and camera persons and assistants, during Operation Pillar of Clouds.
She had been reporting in Israel. Then, suddenly, she Tweeted on Monday that she was heading to Cairo to do the interview with Meshal.
On Friday 16 November, she Tweeted this: @camanpour — “In Israel. Reporting on growing fears of an all-out war: http://abcn.ws/U35bg7”
Then, on Tuesday 20 November she Tweeted @camanpour — “En route to Cairo for an EXCLUSIVE interview with Hamas’ political leader Khaled Mashal”.
On Wednesday 21 November, she sent out these Tweets:
@camanpour — “I’m in Cairo – just finished an EXCLUSIVE interview with Hamas’ political leader: http://on.cnn.com/XC7ESH”
@camanpour — “Khaled Meshaal says Hamas thought there was actually a deal last night, but Israel refused some points”
The cease-fire was announced late on Wednesday 21 November, in a joint media appearance in Cairo by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr, It was confirmed by a press appearance in Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, flanked by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Then, by a press conference in Cairo by Hamas’ Khaled Meshal, on an adrenalin high, and Islamic Jihad’s Ramadan Shallah.
In Amanpour’s interview, aired shortly after that, Meshal spoke in the first person: “I support a Palestinian state in 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital + the right to return”.
But, what did that mean? Was Meshal indicating that this was just his personal position?
The next day, Haniyeh appeared to repeat what Meshal said. Haniyeh and Meshal are the two top political leaders of Hamas.
However, Haniyeh noted that he would like to see a Palestinian state on “all Palestinian land”.
[In both of his statements, Haniyeh also added another condition: the freedom of the Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails.]
With these statements, Haniyeh and Meshaal seem to have dispelled concerns that they might be working for a separate state in Gaza.
More than that — Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank now appear to agree on pursuit of state recognition within the UN.
In a day-after, post-cease-fire press conference in Gaza on Thursday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh seemed to say he supported Abbas’ move to get acknowledgement and acceptance of Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital — with the right of return.
A Hamas official later reportedly denied that Haniyeh said this.
But, even later, Hamas officials were indicating that Hamas will, at least, not publicly disagree with the Abbas move.
FURTHER UPDATE: On Monday 26 November, after the confusion described above, Ma’an News Agency posted a story saying that “Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal telephoned President Abbas on Monday to confirm the Islamist movements’ support for the upcoming UN bid, the official news agency Wafa reported”. This is posted here. The Wafa story is posted here.
UPDATE: The New York Times reported Saturday, here, that “[Ahmed] Yousef, a former Haniya adviser who now runs a research organization…said Hamas, which has opposed the United Nations bid almost as vociferously as Israel, would no longer speak against it. Asked about his vision for a Palestinian state, Mr. Yousef’s contours echoed those of Mr. Abbas: 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital”. The NYTimes described Yousef as “an analyst close to the Hamas leaders”.
UPDATE: Daoud Kuttab wrote on the Huffington Post site here that “Mohammed Ramahi, a Hamas legislator and spokesman for the group’s parliamentary faction, has told Al Jazeera that Hamas will support the UN initiative”.
UPDATE: AFP reported that in a Ramallah rally organized to support the UNGA move, “Abbas said the attempt to secure upgraded status was backed by many UN member states and by all the Palestinian political factions…Abbas reportedly told those assembled: “Today, the UN. After that, reconciliation, and after that, our own state”.
UPDATE: Ma’an News Agency reported that “President Mahmoud Abbas met Saturday evening with Hamas figures in the West Bank at his Ramallah office, according to sources present at the meeting. The meeting discussed Abbas’ bid for upgraded UN membership, due for a vote on Thursday, as well as reconciliation between Hamas and his Fatah party, attendees said. Nasser al-Shaer, a former government minister and Hamas deputy, said after the meeting that he supported the UN bid.” This is posted here.
UPDATE: Adam Shatz has just written in the London Review of Books that “If Israel were truly interested in achieving a peaceful settlement on the basis of the 1967 borders – parameters which Hamas has accepted – it might have tried to strengthen Abbas by ending settlement activity, and by supporting, or at least not opposing, his bid for non-member observer status for Palestine at the UN. Instead it has done its utmost to sabotage his UN initiative (with the robust collaboration of the Obama administration), threatening to build more settlements if he persists”.
UPDATE: Daniel Levy [Senior Fellow and the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation — and the real drafter for the Israeli team of the Geneva Initiative] this week wrote that Hamas has helped develop and push forward the promotion of a real Palestinian state with state status in the UN: “the idea of any future peace arrangements including a Palestinian agreement to demilitarization just became more remote … Fatah and the PLO cannot be dismissed in Palestinian politics, but their longstanding approach of currying American favor, in the hope of delivering Israel absent the creation of Palestinian leverage and assets, has run its course. They appear to have missed the boat in leading a popular campaign of unarmed struggle and the PA’s security cooperation with Israel looks distinctly unseemly in the eyes of many Palestinians…And a likely U.N. General Assembly vote on Palestine observer state status has in all likelihood been reduced to a sideshow … This past week demonstrated that Europeans not only lack a coherent policy to the Palestinians; they are also missing such a policy vis-à-vis Israel … If the Palestine vote takes place at the UNGA, Europe should vote in favor not because of some mathematical computation of strengthening one Palestinians faction at the expense of the other, but rather because it is the right thing to do if Europe is committed to a two-state outcome. Europe might also be useful in utilizing some of the leverage it has with Israel as an outrider to an America still boxed in by its own politics…Russia and China will have enjoyed embarrassing the Americans and some Europeans this week at the UN Security Council over the Palestine issue [Gaza] by siding with Arab parties. It’s something they are likely to indulge again next week if the Palestinians go for a UN vote”. Daniel Levy’s analysis is posted here and here.