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Official: Hamas to introduce 'positive' changes in new political agenda

March 5, 2017 4:14 P.M. (Updated: June 27, 2017 4:46 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Hamas movement is set to adopt a new political agenda after the party elects its new leader, according to Hamas official Ahmad Yousif.

Yousif told Ma’an on Saturday evening that the movement’s new agenda would introduce “positive changes” in Hamas’ attitude towards popular resistance, Palestinian statehood, international entities, Arab and Islamic countries, Christian Palestinians, and “differentiating between Judaism as a religion and the Zionist project.”

While Yahya Sinwar was elected head of the party’s politburo in the Gaza Strip last month, general elections for Hamas leadership in Gaza and in the diaspora were taking place "secretly," Yousif said, while some fifty leaders will be elected in the coming weeks.

According to Yousif, the new party leader will be elected by the end of March and the results will be announced by the beginning of April.

Yousif previously served as senior adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, who was the head of Hamas’ politburo in the Gaza Strip before Sinwar was elected to replace him. Haniyeh has meanwhile been tipped to replace Khalid Meshaal as leader of the party.

Yousif speculated that Hamas's new agenda would include “acceptance of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital based on pre-1967 borders,” and would continue not to recognize the state of Israel nor give up on any part of the Palestinian land.

It remained unclear if or how this would differ from Hamas’ current position; current party leader Khalid Meshaal has previously expressed preference for a long-term truce with Israel in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and rejection of the two-state solution.

The new agenda would also continue to affirm the right of Palestinian refugees from 1948, including their descendants, to return to what is now Israel, according to Yousif.

Christians in Palestine, Yousif said, were viewed in the new agenda as an integral "nationalistic component" of Palestine, adding that "they have the same rights and the same duties just as us." Yousif also said that, "The new agenda will confirm that the conflict is with the Israeli occupation and the Zionist movement inside Palestine, and not with the Jews in general."

As Meshaal has previously stressed that Hamas “does not resist the Israelis because they are Jews,” and that “as a matter of principle, we do not have problems with the Jews or the Christians, but do have a problem with those who attack us and oppress us,” it remained unclear how the new national agenda as described by Yousif would differ from the movement's current position.

With regards to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), because the PLO is considered the “sole legal representative” of the Palestinian people, and the PLO -- not the Palestinian Authority government -- retains foreign recognition by more than 100 states, Hamas has viewed joining the PLO as a means of obtaining international legitimacy.

According to Yousif, the party’s new agenda will continue to view the PLO in this way, and he said the PLO “should be preserved and developed” in order to “protect our inalienable rights and unchangeable principles.”

The Hamas' leader also confirmed that his movement "will not abandon resistance, including non-violent resistance, against (the Israeli) occupation and (will continue to consider) armed resistance a legitimate right for a people under occupation."

Yousif also stressed that Hamas "has no organizational or administrative connections" with international Islamic movements, explaining that "Hamas maintains certain relations with Islamic movements around the world only to recruit support for the Palestinian cause." With regards to "terrorist" organizations such as the so-called Islamic State, Yousif asserted that "they harm the image of Islam and Muslims and the status of the Palestinian cause."

He said that Israel has attempted to reach an agreement with Hamas regarding a prisoner exchange deal, but "this issue is a responsibility of the al-Qassam Brigades, which refuse to discuss the case before Israel frees all prisoners Israel jailed after they were freed in the Shalit prisoner swap deal."

Khalil al-Hayya was also elected to serve as the deputy head of Hamas’ politburo when Hamas elected Sinwar as the new head of its politburo in Gaza.

Political pundit Ibrahim al-Madhoun told Ma’an at the time the change in leadership would affect the movement’s policies, particularly regarding reconciliation with rival party Fatah and diplomatic relations with countries such as Iran, Turkey, and Egypt.

When asked about reports suggesting that Haniyeh and Moussa Abu Marzouq, former deputy head of the politburo, were in competition to lead the party, Yousif said it was “just the media creating the competition," adding that Hamas was "full of leaders who can lead the movement and those two brothers are on top of the lists because of their experiences and history."

News of coming internal elections for Hamas, the de facto leaders of the Gaza Strip, came after the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced the schedule for upcoming municipal elections in the occupied West Bank, which notably will not include Gaza after the elections were rejected by Hamas.

During the PA’s cabinet meeting last week, it was decided that elections in Gaza would be postponed “indefinitely." Hamas, along with the Islamic Jihad movement, has rejected elections on the basis that they should only take place after the more than decade-long rivalry between Hamas and Fatah comes to an end and reconciliation is achieved.

Meanwhile, the PA has launched its new National Policy Agenda (NPA) for the next five years, which has been received with mixed reactions over its feasibility faced with Israeli policies. The plan seeks to achieve ambitious goals such as Palestinian national unity, economic independence, social justice and rule of law, as well as the end of the occupation and realization of Palestinian independence.
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