As U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to hold his second meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem next week, two Palestinian terror groups have announced that the new U.S. administration is planning to "liquidate the Palestinian cause." The warning by Hamas and Islamic Jihad is directed not only against Trump and his new administration, but also against Abbas and any Arab leader who dares to "collude" with the U.S.
The two Palestinian terror groups, which control the Gaza Strip and its two million residents, also renewed their pledge to pursue the armed fight against Israel; they said they would not give up one inch of Palestine, from the (Mediterranean) sea to the (Jordan) river.
Trump and his administration would do well to heed the warning issued by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, especially in the wake of Abbas's recent statements concerning a two-state solution and peace with Israel. Abbas controls only parts of the West Bank, and how he intends to establish a Palestinian state when he cannot even set foot in the Gaza Strip is anyone's guess. Recently, Hamas announced that if and when the 82-year-old Abbas shows up in the Gaza Strip, he will be hanged in a public square on charges of "high treason."
The warning by the Palestinian terror groups was made during a joint rally in the Gaza Strip on May 14. Leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad vowed to "preserve the Palestinian rifle and Palestinian rights in the face of any schemes and attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause."
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar stated that Palestinian "principles are part of our [Islamic] religion, and we cannot make any concessions on them. We will not give up one inch of our land and holy sites. We will continue to work until the liberation of each inch of Palestine."
Zahar also warned Abbas against signing any agreement with Israel that includes relinquishing Palestinian rights. "Anyone who gives up our rights and holy sites will betray Allah and his Prophet Mohammed," Zahar cautioned.
Notably, Zahar's statement to "liberate every inch of Palestine" comes amid false claims in the Western media to the effect that Hamas has abandoned its dream of eliminating Israel.
The claims are based on a new policy document recently published by Hamas; it says that the Islamic terror movement accepts a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, but without recognizing Israel's right to exist. Translation: Hamas seeks a Palestinian state that would be used as a launching pad to destroy Israel.
Zahar and other Hamas leaders have taken advantage of every available platform to clarify that their acceptance of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines does not mean abandoning their plan to eliminate Israel.
They have also explained, at length, that the new policy document does not replace Hamas's original charter, which explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel.
Hamas's honesty with respect to its true intentions stands in utter contrast to the deceit with which the policy document is being treated by others.
For instance, some Western media outlets and Palestinian affairs "experts" and "analysts" deceptively describe the document as a sign of moderation and pragmatism on the part of Hamas.
While Hamas leaders proudly proclaim that there is no real change in their ideology and charter, some Westerners seem to have a sort of hearing disability when it comes to the truth of the terror movement.
Another Hamas leader, Ahmed Bahr, said at the rally that his movement remains strongly opposed to security coordination between Abbas's Palestinian Authority and Israel in the West Bank.
Bahr described the security coordination and the crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank as a new Palestinian "Nakba" (Catastrophe) -- the term used by Palestinians and Arabs to describe the establishment of Israel in 1948.
Referring to Trump's upcoming visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and reports that the U.S. administration was seeking to revive stalled peace talks between the PA and Israel, the top Hamas official said that Palestinians remain committed to the "resistance to liberate Palestine despite the conspiracies that are being concocted against them."
For Hamas and its allies, Trump's peace efforts are nothing less than a plot designed to force Palestinians to make unacceptable concessions to Israel. They will accept nothing but the elimination of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic state governed by Islamic sharia law.
Islamic Jihad leaders, for their part, said that Trump's upcoming visit to the Middle East was aimed at "forming a new alliance to preserve" Israel's interests. They believe that the purported alliance will consist of Israel, Abbas's PA and some Arab countries.
In the view of Islamic Jihad leader Mohammed al-Hindi, the Trump-engineered alliance would "create a new Nakba" for the Palestinians. "Palestine is the land of all Palestinians and part of our history," he declared. He too warned Abbas against any agreement that includes concessions to Israel.
Ignoring such threats issued by Palestinian terror groups is done only at one's extreme peril. These are not marginal factions with a limited following among Palestinians. Rather, the ideology of Hamas and Islamic Jihad is widespread among the Palestinians and lives in the hearts and minds of many of them. These terror groups are popular not only in the Gaza Strip, but also among large sectors of Palestinians in the West Bank.
Just last week we received yet another reminder of Hamas's increased popularity in the West Bank when its supporters won -- for the third straight year -- the student council elections at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah. Hamas's victory in the university election has once again left Abbas and his loyalists bewildered.
The electoral showing is anything but confusing: it demonstrates with excruciating clarity that Hamas could easily take over any Palestinian state that the U.S. and the Europeans help create in the West Bank.
No one is more aware of this than Abbas -- in a situation that accounts for why he has spent the past decade blocking parliamentary and presidential elections. Above all, Abbas wishes to avoid his mistake of 2006, when Hamas won the parliamentary election.
For a start, Trump might ask Abbas precisely how he plans to cope with the threats by Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups to destroy Israel and thwart any "treacherous" peace agreement with Israel. Under the current circumstances, when Palestinians are radicalized against Israel on a daily basis and Hamas's popularity is skyrocketing, the talk about a two-state solution and peace sounds downright delusional.
Abbas is a weak leader with precious little legitimacy among Palestinians. He would never survive any kind of real peace deal with Israel -- a reality that, ironically, he has done his very best to create.
Trump and his advisors might put aside the sweet talk of Abbas and his spokesmen, and listen instead for the unsettling truths voiced by other Palestinians such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Alternatively, the West can continue to fantasize about a new Middle East in which Arabs and Muslims accept Israel's right to exist -- while in reality many of them are totally consumed by their attempts to raze it to the ground.
At his scheduled meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem next week, U.S. President Donald Trump might put aside the sweet talk of Abbas, and listen instead for the unsettling truths voiced by other Palestinians such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Pictured: Trump and Abbas give a joint statement on May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Image source: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.