What Hamas Wants

As it struggles to form a government for the Palestinian territories, Hamas seems to be clutching to the Biblical verses in Ecclesiasties rather than the desires of the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations) charged with trying to bridge the Israeli-Palestinian divide. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven,” fits Hamas’s current agenda because its priorities and time frame are different from those of the international community, which is pressing it to make immediate political declarations, most importantly, to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Hamas understands the political obligations that it must meet in order to be fully accepted in the world community, but its leaders prefer to wait until they are fully empowered before exploring these issues. Moreover, Hamas, like most Palestinians, is trying to evaluate the best way forward in the peace process. In their eyes, the current process produced years of inaction in negotiations, allowing for continued occupation and theft of Palestinian lands.

As an example, Hamas leaders point out that in the past year, with the moderate Mahmoud Abbas in power, the Israelis have not even negotiated with him. So, from their point of view, Israel is not going to rush to negotiate with any Palestinian authority, whether it recognizes Israel’s right to exist or not.

Instead, the newly elected Hamas leaders are preoccupied with basic issues like preserving internal unity among Palestinians, ending lawlessness, ensuring greater respect for the rule of law, fighting corruption, and reforming Palestinian governance. Most Palestinians are in complete agreement with these priorities.