Hamas is joining the PLO not as a result of a change in its ideology but because it wants the PLO to stick to its original platform – liberating Palestine and achieving the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, Hamas leaders explained over the weekend.But who are you going to believe, terrorists or Time magazine Middle East experts?
The Hamas leaders’ clarifications came in response to claims that Hamas’s decision to join the PLO was a sign the Islamist movement was moving toward moderation and would abandon its radical ideology.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other radical Palestinian groups agreed on Thursday to join a provisional leadership of the PLO that would look into ways of “activating and reconstructing” the Fatah-dominated organization.
The decision was announced following a meeting of representatives of several Palestinian groups in Cairo.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are demanding the PLO reconsider its political strategy by scrapping the Oslo Accords and its recognition of the two-state solution.
Hamas’s “foreign minister” Osama Hamdan, said the decision to join the temporary PLO leadership did not mean Hamas would become part of the peace process with Israel.
“Anyone who thinks Hamas has changed its positions and now accepts the PLO’s defeatist political program is living in an illusion,” Hamdan stressed. “Hamas cannot make the mistake of joining a process that has proved to be a failed one over the past 20 years.”
He was quoted by the Quds Press news agency as saying Hamas’s decision to be part of a provisional PLO leadership was aimed at “reconstructing the organization and reconsidering its political program.”
Hamdan emphasized that Hamas remains committed to fulfilling the aspirations of Palestinians, “first and foremost the liberation of our lands from the sea to the river and achieving the right of return.”
By seeking reconciliation with Fatah, Hamas hopes to achieve the Palestinians’ goal of liberating all their lands and securing the return of the refugees to their original homes inside Israel, Hamdan said.
Another Hamas leader, Khalil Abu Leila, said his movement would not join the PLO under the latter’s current political program.
One of the main tasks of the provisional PLO leadership was to “bring the PLO back to its correct path and the goal for which it was established, namely the liberation of Palestine,” he said.
Abu Leila said Hamas had long been demanding the PLO be “reactivated” and reconsider all agreements signed by the organization. His remark was seen as a reference to the Oslo Accords, which were signed between the PLO and Israel in 1993.
Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Shallah also denied the decision to join the provisional PLO leadership was an indication his group would abandon its ideology.
“We still haven’t joined the PLO,” he said. “In future discussions with other factions, we will talk about incorporating Islamic Jihad into the PLO. Thursday’s meeting was just the beginning of this process.”
Shallah told London-based Al- Hayat newspaper it has already been made clear no organization would be asked to abandon its program as a condition for joining the PLO.
On the other hand, he added, no group has been asked to accept the PLO’s political platform as a condition for joining the organization.
“In principle, there is a Palestinian consensus that the PLO is an address for all Palestinians,” Shallah said. “We are seeking to make this an appropriate address.”
He said that during last week’s discussions in Cairo, PLO and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas made it clear the Palestinians would still preserve the right to “armed resistance” against Israel, despite the talk about the need for a “popular uprising.”
“No one has the right to say armed resistance is illegitimate and the Palestinians cannot resort to it,” Shallah said.
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