Hamas and Islamic Jihad control nearly two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Each group has its own political leadership , as well as militias that possess various types of weapons, including rockets and missiles. Pictured: Hamas militiamen parade their weapons in Gaza City, on July 20, 2017. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
A Palestinian terror group says that its engineers have developed "accurate and destructive" missiles that can reach the "occupied" cities of Tel Aviv, Netanya and Jerusalem. Abu Hamza, spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Iranian-funded Islamic Jihad organization in the Gaza Strip, threatened that his group's "rocket unit" would turn Israeli cities into "hell."
"There is no place for the Zionist enemy on the land of Palestine," Abu Hamza said. "Either they leave this blessed land, or they will be dealt one painful strike after the other."
Islamic Jihad is the second-largest Palestinian terror group in the Gaza Strip, after Hamas. Neither group recognizes Israel's right to exist. Both say they are committed to the "armed struggle until the liberation of all Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River."
The leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad see Israel as one big settlement to be uprooted from the Middle East.
For them, there is no difference between a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and any other city inside Israel. As far as they are concerned, Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Haifa and Nazareth are all "occupied" cities. Palestinian weather forecast bulletins often publish names of cities inside Israel on a map that does not mention the word Israel.
The Palestinian leaders say that the conflict with Israel will end only when Israel is annihilated.
"We won't give upon one inch of the land of Palestine," said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. "We will continue to fight until all the refugees return to their homes" -- meaning areas in Israel within the "green line" 1949 armistice borders.
In 2017, Hamas published a document of "General Principles and Policies," in which it claimed that it was ready to accept a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines (West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem) -- but without Hamas recognizing Israel's right to exist or Hamas "giving up all of Palestine."
In other words, Hamas is saying that it would not oppose the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem; it would use these territories as a launching pad to "liberate the rest of Palestine."
The Hamas document clearly states that "no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances, and the pressures, and no matter how long the occupation lasts." It affirms that Hamas "rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea." The document also states that Hamas will never recognize the "Zionist entity" or relinquish any Palestinian rights.
Although Hamas says in the document that it is ready, for now, to accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel, it nevertheless considers "Palestine, which extends from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, and from Ras Al-Naqurah in the north to Umm Al-Rashrash [Eilat] in the south, an integral territorial unit. It is the land and the home of the Palestinian people."
The Hamas document has been misinterpreted by some Westerners as a sign of moderation and pragmatism on the part of the terrorist group. Reuters, for example, claimed in a May 1, 2017 dispatch that Hamas has "dropped its long-standing call for Israel's destruction."
This claim is completely false. Reuters, like several other Western media outlets, ignored those parts of the Hamas document that mentions the need to eliminate Israel. Here are other parts of the document that reveal Hamas's true intentions:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas is a Palestinian national liberation resistance movement. Its goal is to liberate Palestine and confront the Zionist project. Palestine is an Arab Islamic land. It is a blessed sacred land that has a special place in the heart of every Arab and every Muslim. There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity. Whatever has befallen the land of Palestine in terms of occupation, settlement building, Judaization or changes to its features or falsification of facts is illegitimate. Rights never lapse."
Worse, some Westerners have gone so far as describing the document as the "new Hamas charter." Again, that claim is false. The Hamas charter, which was published in 1988, continues to exist; it has never been changed or amended. This charter states :
"... the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim 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. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that...
"Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realised."
For the past three decades, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been major players in the Palestinian arena. They are not splinter factions than can be dismissed as irrelevant. The two groups control nearly two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Each group has its own political leadership , as well as militias that possess various types of weapons, including rockets and missiles. The two groups also have thousands of militiamen in the Gaza Strip who consider themselves "soldiers" and "freedom fighters" in the war to eliminate Israel and kill Jews.
Those who think that Hamas and Islamic Jihad will vanish one day are living in an illusion. The two groups continue to pose a real threat, not only to Israel, but also to Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. Were it not for Israel's security presence in the West Bank, Hamas and Islamic Jihad would have toppled Abbas's regime long ago. Hamas and Islamic Jihad despise Abbas and consider him a traitor because of his purported support for a two-state solution.
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar was recently quoted as saying that when his movement "liberates Palestine," it will bring Abbas to trial for betraying the Palestinians.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad should be given credit for their clarity and honesty regarding their ambitions. The two groups are clearly saying that their ultimate goal is to see Israel removed from the region and replaced with an Islamic state. As far as they are concerned, the conflict with Israel is not about a settlement or a checkpoint or even Jerusalem. Instead, it is about the presence of Jews in what they regard as their own homeland and State.
Any Middle East peace plan that ignores what Hamas and Islamic Jihad are saying is doomed to fail. Moreover, ignoring the two groups will pose a massive threat to security and stability in the region. The US administration, which says it will unveil its plan for peace in the Middle East after the Israeli elections in April, ought to think and think again about the plan's possible repercussions.
This is what members of the US administration needs to ask themselves: What will happen the day after a Palestinian state is established? The answer, according to Hamas and Islamic Jihad (and other Palestinians) is that the Palestinians will use this state to continue the "armed struggle" until the liberation of the occupied cities of Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Tiberias, Jaffa and Haifa. Under the current circumstances, a Palestinian state will pose a clear and present existential danger to Israel.
The Islamic Jihad threat of turning Israeli cities into "hell" by firing missiles at them needs to be taken seriously by those who are working on the upcoming US peace plan. Any land that is given to Abbas and his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will be used in the future by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as a base for launching rockets and missiles into Israeli cities. Then, the terror groups will not need accurate, long-range rockets to achieve their plan to destroy Israel's population centers: they will be sitting right across the street from them.
Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.