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Hamas says it’s prepared for five-year truce if Israel agrees to two-state solution

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In comments that confounded long-held assumptions, a senior Hamas official has stunningly suggested the militant group could disarm its military wing and reorganize as a political party – if Israel meets its demands for an independent Palestinian state along 1967 borders.

The striking overture from Khalil al-Hayya, a high-ranking Hamas political leader involved in ceasefire talks, appeared to dangle potential concessions by the rejectionist group in exchange for its maximum territorial aims being fulfilled. However, al-Hayya’s vague remarks also contained apparent contradictions and caveats that muddy any clear policy shift.

Speaking with The Associated Press in Istanbul on Wednesday, al-Hayya claimed Hamas would disband its armed wing, lay down its weapons, and join a united government with the Palestinian Authority if granted sovereignty over the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

“All the experiences of people who fought against occupiers, when they became independent and obtained their rights, what have these forces done?” the Hamas official asked rhetorically. “They have turned into political parties and their defending fighting forces have turned into the national army.”

Surprising Suggestion of Disarmament If such a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders was implemented, al-Hayya insisted Hamas “would dissolve” its military capabilities and integrate its fighters into the security forces of a newly sovereign Palestinian state.

The explicit vow of complete disarmament from one of Hamas’ senior-most officials was viewed as an unprecedented declaration from the militant group, which has previously refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist and remained implacably committed to armed struggle to achieve its nationalist aims.

Al-Hayya asserted that in this scenario, Hamas would consolidate politically with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, currently led by President Mahmoud Abbas’ secular Fatah party, to form a single ruling government for both Gaza and the West Bank territories.

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The Hamas representative stated the group desires to join the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization headed by Abbas’ Fatah as part of this prospective united front.

Dismissals and Disbelief Naturally, al-Hayya’s head-spinning comments invoking Palestinian unity and suggesting Hamas could pragmatically remold itself into a purely political movement were met with deep skepticism across the board.

“The only thing Hamas has shown is it is interested in destroying Israel, not making peace,” scoffed an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity. “After killing over 1,200 Israeli civilians in unprovoked attacks last October, inciting more violence and mayhem is the last thing anyone should take seriously from this terrorist regime.”

The official pointed to Hamas’ foundational charter explicitly calling for the destruction of Israel and its recent statements lauding the deadly attacks that sparked the ongoing, devastating war in Gaza as evidence the group’s official stance remains overtly rejectionist.

Similarly dismissive reactions came from the Palestinian Authority’s secular government, which has employed diplomacy rather than violence in pushing for statehood through negotiations with Israel.

“We do not take threats or promises from Hamas seriously,” a PA spokesman said. “Their words mean nothing while they continue killing and terrorizing Palestinian civilians unfortunate enough to live under their repressive, corrupt rule.”

Ceasefire Leverage or Sincere Shift? With both Israel and the Palestinian Authority publicly rebuffing al-Hayya’s head-spinning rhetoric, analysts were left wondering whether the Hamas official’s comments could portend an actual strategic recalibration – or merely an attempt to regain leverage in stalled ceasefire talks.

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A November 2023 truce secured the release of over 100 hostages held by Hamas in exchange for thousands of Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel. But negotiations over the estimated 150 remaining captives soon broke down amid acrimonious allegations of intransigence and bad faith from both sides.

In his AP interview, al-Hayya accused Israel of failing to negotiate seriously, even as he claimed Hamas made compromises by lowering its prisoner release demands. But the Hamas leader stressed no more captives would be freed without “ironclad” guarantees of a full Israeli withdrawal and permanent end to the 7-month Gaza war.

“If we are not assured the war will end, why would I hand over the prisoners?” he asked defiantly.

Al-Hayya also issued a severe warning that Hamas will consider any international forces monitoring humanitarian aid deliveries or troop movements in Gaza’s blockaded territory as an “occupying force” after over 34,000 Palestinians have already been killed.

“We categorically reject any non-Palestinian presence in Gaza, whether at sea or on land,” he stated ominously. “We will deal with any military force present in these places, Israeli or otherwise, as an occupying power.”

Hardline Hints and Defiance For all al-Hayya’s rhetoric about a hypothetical political reformation allowing Hamas to join a unified Palestinian government, he coupled it with hardline hints of unrelenting militancy and defiance.

Asked about the devastating October 7th attacks by Hamas fighters that killed around 1,200 Israelis and sparked massive Israeli retaliation, the official expressed zero contrition – dismissing accusations of deliberately targeting civilians.

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“The operation succeeded in its goal of bringing the Palestinian issue back to the world’s attention,” al-Hayya claimed, again warning that even if Hamas was someday destroyed, Palestinian uprisings would persist.

“Let’s say that they have destroyed Hamas,” he stated ominously. “Are the Palestinian people gone?”

As a potential major Israeli ground offensive looms in the battered Gaza City of Rafah, where over 1 million refugees have sought shelter, al-Hayya’s contradictory messaging combined vague openings to diplomacy with continued militant rhetoric and rejections of compromise.

The incongruous suggestions of both potential concessions and unrelenting armed struggle underscored the treacherous path ahead for resolving the bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas and Israel appear entrenched in deeply oppositional stances over core existential issues like the prospect of a Palestinian state and the militant group’s demands for territory, even as devastating carnage mounts in Gaza.

Analysts were left deeply conflicted whether al-Hayya’s comments signaled a potential strategic shift by Hamas’s exiled political leadership toward pragmatism and non-violence, or merely more defiant bombast underlining its uncompromising rejectionism of Israel’s right to exist as it girds for more armed struggle.

Either way, the Hamas official’s befuddling rhetoric displayed the cavernous divisions plaguing the Palestinian national movement in new relief, with seemingly irreconcilable gaps remaining over achieving statehood through diplomacy or militancy. As Gaza’s mass displacements and soaring death tolls showed no signs of abating, the vast complexities blocking any conflict resolution appeared more intractable than ever.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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