When a father-son duo affiliated with Hamas indicated that the terrorist organization intends to replace Israel with an Islamic state, but that it would "accept" a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, George Washington University professor Nathan J. Brown says he found it confusing, contradictory and baffling.
He shouldn't have. The two positions are not incompatible, and the idea that a Palestinian state in the West Bank should be used to continue the fight for Israel's destruction is not a new one.
Here is Brown, writing in The Forward:
One year ago, I sat in the Nablus living room of the late Shaykh Hamid al-Bitawi, a leading religious figure in Hamas. We were joined by one of his sons, a man in his 20s. As an academic specializing in Islamist political movements, I was interested primarily in how (or if) Hamas was operating in the West Bank.
But the conversation turned quite naturally toward al-Bitawis views on a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The solution was simple, he genially explained, since an Islamic state in all of Palestine would naturally provide for the rights of all inhabitants. His combination of excessive politeness with an extremely pugnacious position prompted his (even more polite) son to pipe in: What my father says is absolutely correct from a religious point of view. But from a political point of view, Hamas accepts a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.
After he spoke, father and son looked at each other, smiled and nodded. I was used to hearing confusing signals and even contradictory positions from different Hamas figures. But what I found utterly baffling was that the two seemed to think they were agreeing with each other.
Hamid and his son were not playing "good cop/bad cop." They were both bad cop, and they were conveying a nearly 40-year-old idea. In 1974, the PLO famously adopted its 10-Point Plan, otherwise known as the "phased plan" for the destruction of Israel. In the words of professor Ephraim Karsh, the plan "stipulates that the Palestinians should seize whatever territory Israel is prepared or compelled to cede to them and use it as a springboard for further territorial gains until achieving the 'complete liberation of Palestine.'"
The idea isn't even new to Hamas. In 2006, for example, a Hamas spokesman used language that almost perfectly mirrored that in the phased plan:
The Hamas Movement's position is a clear one: We refuse to recognize the Israeli occupation, but we do not object to any gradual solutions that do not stem from recognition of the Israeli occupation's state. If we are speaking in the context of a transient and gradual solution, then yes, we do not object to the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders without that leading to the recognition of the occupation's legitimacy. (Sami Abu Zuhri, May 11, 2006, translated by BBC Monitoring Middle East, emphasis added)
It's a straightforward concept, and one that does not suggest any meaningful moderation on the part of Hamas. As Israeli peace activist Yossi Alpher put it
, the group's positions are "as intransigent as ever." Yet when Hamas official have previously suggested the group it will accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, albeit without ending the conflict, some newspapers have rushed to publish embarrassing and false headlines
trumpeting that Hamas has accepted a two-state solution or has recognized Israel's right to exist.
It is time for them to recognize that "phased plan to destroy Israel" is not an oxymoron.