The real significance of Mousa Abu Marzook’s Forward interview appears to be that the Hamas leadership wants to make sure that Israelis and the American pro-Israel community understand its positions and its terms. Under the influence of its mentor, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which is ascending to power in Cairo, it wants to be understood as a “player” in the political sense.
This is important because, in view of Hamas’s stable grip on Gaza, no significant progress toward a territorially comprehensive two-state solution appears possible without its participation.
Yet, judging from the interview, we can’t expect much. Hamas’s positions are as intransigent as ever. For example, Abu Marzook indicates that his movement won’t control terrorist violence emanating from Gaza and, indeed, won’t renounce terrorism against Israeli targets, even if he lamely excuses the deliberate targeting of civilians.
Nor does the Hamas leader offer any serious prospect of Hamas respecting a peace treaty negotiated by Israel with the more moderate West Bank-based Palestinian leadership. Abu Marzook proposes to treat a two-state peace treaty between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization as a hudna, or cease-fire. This might be intriguing had he not described the proposed Israel-Hamas hudna relationship with reference to Syria — with which Israel remains legally in a state of war — rather than, say, Morocco or the Gulf emirates, with which Israel has a variety of quiet contacts. Nor, he asserts, can that proposed relationship be negotiated with Israel. Doesn’t Hamas know that even the Syrians have, on occasion, negotiated with Israel?
Further, as a condition for a hudna, Abu Marzook insists on a comprehensive right of return to Israel for all 1948 refugees, while pretending to ignore the contradiction: The “return” of millions of “refugees” means the end of the Jewish state. To make sure we understand the real import of his position on “peace,” he wants the entire Palestinian diaspora, most of which is made up of such refugees, to approve in a referendum a PLO-Israel deal that still leaves Hamas in a state of war with Israel.
There are in this interview no serious prospects for peace or even stable coexistence. How can there be, when Abu Marzook’s answers regarding the Hamas charter and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion place him and his movement in a category of willfully ignorant and hateful anti-Semites? There is no breakthrough here, no significant compromise. We’re still dealing with militant Islam.
Yossi Alpher is the former director of Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. He currently co-edits bitterlemons.net.