Hamas has weathered a great political storm in the past few days, following a Sept. 11 announcement by the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, Mousa Abu Marzouk, that the movement might undertake direct negotiations with Israel, since such negotiations have become a popular demand in Gaza but remain forbidden by law.
In the same interview, Abu Marzouk said, “Just as Hamas has negotiated with Israel using weapons, so is it possible to negotiate with words. If the situation in Gaza remains as it is now, Hamas could find itself forced to negotiate with Israel, and many of the things currently forbidden to the movement will be on the table.”
Abu Marzouk clarified his remarks in an interview with Al-Monitor on Sept. 15, saying it was a “quiet cry of anger,” while adding that there are difficulties in indirect negotiations due to the meddling of mediators.
Hamas responded as soon as Abu Marzouk let loose this unprecedented political bomb. Al-Monitor learned from a Hamas source that the “leadership has undertaken urgent internal and external communications to publicize its official position on Abu Marzouk’s statements, given the lack of total agreement within the group’s leadership over this political position on direct negotiations with Israel. Even if there were a specific future stance on the matter, there ought to be agreement over the timing of such a statement, which does not need to be announced through the media.”
The source added, “Up to the present moment, we are still suffering from the misfortunes of the Israeli war on Gaza. The blood of the martyrs has not yet dried, and those forced from their homes have not yet returned. Therefore, the timing of a certain statement on Hamas’ adoption of this historic position must take place through internal consensus, or at least by agreement at the level of the organization and its leadership.”
A brief statement published by Hamas’ political office on Sept. 11 announced that direct negotiation with Israel is not the movement’s policy and is not on the table for discussion.
The leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, said at a Sept. 14 press conference in Tunisia that the movement’s fundamental policy is to pursue indirect negotiations, should negotiations be necessary.
Al-Monitor learned from leadership sources in the movement that “Abu Marzouk’s discussion of direct negotiations with Israel was not spontaneous. The idea was first floated during the last war on Gaza, as cease-fire negotiations stumbled in Cairo, and some within Hamas called for direct negotiations with Israel, without local or regional intermediaries.”