Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal visited Gaza for the first time since 1967 yesterday. Speaking to thousands of flag-waving supporters, Meshaal doubled down on Hamas’s solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—one state, no Jews:
First of all, Palestine—from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, from its north to its south—is our land, our right, and our homeland. There will be no relinquishing or forsaking even an inch or small part of it.
Second, Palestine was, continues to be, and will remain Arab and Islamic. It belongs to the Arab and the Islamic world. Palestine belongs to us and to nobody else. This is the Palestine which we know and in which we believe.
Third, since Palestine belongs to us, and is the land of Arabism and Islam, we must never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of it. The occupation is illegitimate, and therefore, Israel is illegitimate, and will remain so throughout the passage of time. Palestine belongs to us, not to the Zionists.
The BBC says the Islamist uprisings across Arab lands have given new momentum to Hamas’s movement:
The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Gaza City says the event was intended to send a message that, after 25 years, Hamas is a force to be reckoned with.
It enjoys support in Gaza and feels it is gaining regional political influence after the Arab uprisings brought new Islamist governments to power, she adds. [ . . . ]
Ahmed Shaheen, attending the rally with his children, told Reuters: “This is a day of victory. The presence of Khaled Meshaal is a sign of this victory.”
It’s hard to think of anything that could do more damage to the efforts of the Israeli left to nudge the world’s only Jewish state into talking with Hamas. The more Hamas is able to increase its legitimacy, the weaker the Palestinian moderates will become, which in turn will weaken moderates in Israel. When Hamas simultaneously gains support and shrugs off even the possibility of peace, the Israelis don’t feel encouraged to make many concessions, let alone propose a peace deal.
Mashaal is slated for reconciliation talks with Palestinian political rival Fatah. Even if Hamas-Fatah relations begin to improve, the Hamas relationship that’s really worth watching is the one with Morsi’s Egypt. Closer political and economic integration of Gaza with Egypt might change the approach of the U.S. and Israel to the conflict.
Mark down this development as another challenge for the President and his next Secretary of State. Middle East peacemaking is a tough and thankless job at the best of times, and Hamas intends to do everything in its power to make real peace impossible.