"I am confident that the siege will be partially broken, which will give our people an opportunity to be prepared for the forthcoming stage." Khaled Meshaal, Asharq Al-Awsat, February 2
Has Hamas moderated? Or are the Palestinian Arab organization's leaders following in the footsteps of Yasser Arafat, discussing peaceful intentions in talks with the West while declaring jihad in Arabic?
During a press conference in Tehran with President Ahmadinejad on March 4, the political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, said he supported the recently signed Mecca Accords for power sharing between Hamas and the Fatah Party of Arafat and the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
Mr. Meshaal also spoke in favor of other Palestinian Arab objectives, such as the establishment of a state with the 1967 borders and Jerusalem as its capital, and the so-called right of return.
Mr. Meshaal reiterated Hamas's position against official recognition of Israel, and he promised to continue the group's resistance. With a smile on his face, Mr. Ahmadinejad told the Hamas leader: "The Zionist entity is in the worst period in its history, and is headed toward crumbling. The divine victory will soon be revealed."
At an address at Al-Murabit Mosque in Damascus on February 3, 2006, Mr. Meshaal said publicly what some Palestinian Arabs have been talking about for some time with their press outlets: They will be patient in their battle against Israel. He promised, "Muslims will take over the world," and he explicitly said his organization's plan is to deceive Israel with semantics.
In his speech, the Hamas leader explained that his people are willing to continue fighting Israel even if it takes 1000 years for victory. Mr. Meshaal also said one aspect of Hamas's current strategy is to rely on such tools as using statements like "we love peace" or "we have given up the option of war," while still planning Israel's destruction.
Mr. Meshaal also promised: "Before Israel dies, it must be humiliated and degraded. We will make them lose their eyesight, we will make them lose their brains."
A Kuwaiti journalist and former education minister, Ahmed Al-Rabei, wrote an article in Asharq Al-Awsat on March 30 titled: "Hamas Between Two Languages." He chided the organization for playing games with its words, explaining, "The Hamas movement will save the Palestinian people a lot of time and effort if it change[s] its political language. What does this government program really mean?"
Mr. Rabei accused Hamas of not openly stating its true objectives with Israel. In "clear Arabic language, it means recognizing that there are two states, one of them Israel. It means negotiating the last solution with Israel. In plain Arabic, it means Hamas's recognition of Israel as a state and the political process as a procedure. The Hamas leadership has a chance to tell its bases the truth. Hamas has new obligations that it must not avoid. There is no exit other than to stop talking with two different languages."
Hamas's language games have confused many including an Al Qaeda deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahri, who recently accused the organization of getting soft with its jihad. In response, as reported in the Turkish Daily Zaman on March 13, the organization released a statement that read, "We will not betray promises we made to God to continue the path to jihad and resistance until the liberation of Palestine."
Besides Mr. Meshaal, many Hamas leaders have been discussing the coming "stage," or battle against Israel. A member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and columnist for the Hamas organ Al-Resala, Younes Al-Astal, called the Mecca Accords "Sulh Al-Hudaybiyya," alluding to a temporary peace agreement from the early days of Islamic history.
He wrote on February 15: "We are optimistic that the new Mecca agreement will be the key to many achievements, which will provide the internal security that is necessary to renew the siege on Khaybar [Israel], and to subjugate the Zionists to the demands of the resistance."
Another sign that Hamas is preparing for an additional "stage" against Israel has been its press outlets' support for suicide bombers. This topic will be explored further in next week's column.
Mr. Stalinsky is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.