Hamas terrorists, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, parade in the Gaza Strip, July 20, 2017. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
What does Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, mean when it says that it "won't pay any political price" in return for a truce agreement with Israel? Answer: No to recognizing Israel, no to abandoning the dream of eliminating Israel, and no to disarming.
In recent weeks, several Hamas leaders and spokesmen have repeatedly been quoted as saying that their group will not make any political concessions as part of a truce deal with Israel. The statements came as Egypt and the United Nations continue their effort to reach a truce that would end the ongoing violence along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
"We want a decision to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a recent speech marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of his group. "Any understandings that are reached to end the blockade will not be in return for a political price."
Haniyeh's remarks were echoed by several Hamas leaders and officials belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ,) the second largest terrorist group in the Gaza Strip.
In an interview with the Gaza-based Al-Istiklal newspaper, senior PIJ official Nafez Azzam claimed that the Egyptians and the UN were recently close to achieving a truce deal that does not require the Palestinian terrorist groups to "pay a political price."
When Hamas and PIJ talk about paying a political price, they are referring to demands (by Israel and many in the international community) that the Palestinian terrorist groups lay down their weapons, halt terrorist attacks on Israel, and abandon their dream of eliminating Israel and replacing it with an Islamist state. These are terms, of course, to which no Palestinian terrorist group could ever afford to agree, not even in return for the blockade on the Gaza Strip being lifted or economic and humanitarian aid to the two million Palestinians living in the coastal enclave. Accepting such conditions would make them look bad in the eyes of their supporters, who would then accuse them of betraying the Arabs and Muslims by failing to fulfill their promise of destroying Israel.
Anyone who thinks that Hamas or PIJ or any other terrorist group would ever agree to disarm is living in an illusion. It is unthinkable. As far as these groups are concerned, keeping their weapons is tremendously more important than improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
"We will not hand our weapons to the Palestinian Authority, which conducts security coordination with Israel [in the West Bank]," leading Hamas official Ahmed Bahr said in a recent Friday prayer sermon in the Gaza Strip. "The weapons of the resistance are the legitimate weapons that will be used to restore our rights and liberate our lands. The option of resistance is the only and shortest way to liberate our land and restore our rights."
To be clear, when the Palestinian terrorist groups talk about "resistance," they are referring to terror attacks on Israel. These include suicide bombings, launching rockets and mortars towards Israel, and hurling explosive devices and firebombs at Israeli soldiers and civilians. These groups do not believe in any form of peaceful and non-violent protests. For them, there is only one realistic option to achieve their goal of destroying Israel: the armed struggle.
Anyone who thinks that Hamas or any other terror group would agree to abandon its extremist ideology in return for easing the economic restrictions on the Gaza Strip is also living in a dream world. This is an ideology that clearly states that Jews have no right to live in a sovereign and independent state of their own on what many perceive as "Muslim-owned land." The Hamas charter is refreshingly clear on this subject:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up."
To their credit, Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip openly remind the world at every opportunity that their ultimate goal is to "liberate all of Palestine," from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River: the exact area of Israel.
"The Palestinian resistance has a real army whose mission is to liberate all of Palestine," declared Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official. "By God's will, this army will reach Jerusalem."
If this is the case, why are the Palestinian terrorist groups conducting indirect talks with Israel to reach a new truce agreement in the Gaza Strip under the auspices of Egypt and the UN? The answer is simple. They want a truce, or period of calm, so that they can continue preparing for the next war against Israel without having to worry about Israeli military operations.
The Palestinian terrorist groups see the proposed truce as a temporary measure that will allow them to continue smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip and building new tunnels that would be used to infiltrate Israel and kill as many civilians and soldiers as possible. They want Israel to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip so that they can continue to launch terrorist attacks against Israelis without having to lay down their own weapons or abandon their radical and vicious ideology.
The Palestinian terrorist groups are at least honest about their true intentions. They do not hide their desire to destroy Israel and kill as many Jews as possible. Hamas and its allies do not care about the well-being of their people in the Gaza Strip. They are determined to fight Israel to the last Palestinian.
It is time for all those involved in efforts to achieve a truce in the Gaza Strip to listen to what the Palestinian terrorist groups are saying. The message the terrorist groups are sending is very clear: no to recognizing Israel's right to exist, no to abandoning our dream of eliminating Israel, and no to laying down our weapons.
Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.