Some Hamas Officials Say Will Disarm If Israel Agrees to Free Palestine State

Hamas has signaled a dramatic policy change, with some officials indicating that it will disarm if Israel agrees to the formation of an independent Palestinian state. Basem Naim of the Hamas political bureau recently said that the new state must have Jerusalem as its capital, and Israel must guarantee a right of return for Palestinian refugees. The comments significantly differ from Hamas’ long-term position that a Palestinian state must be created from land that includes current-day Israel, thereby necessitating the destruction of the Jewish state.

Some Israelis, however, have described Naim’s remarks as a “publicity stunt” aimed at portraying Hamas in a positive light in the Western media while simultaneously creating the impression that Israel is an obstacle to peace. President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, Efraim Inbar, said the Israeli government will likely take the gesture with “a grain of salt.”

Nevertheless, Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, made similar comments and said he would agree to a five-year ceasefire and convert Hamas to a political party if a Palestinian state is established with pre-1967 borders. During the six-day war of 1967 between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the Jewish state captured significant territory, including the Gaza Strip.

Commentators suggest Israel is unlikely to consider giving any such concessions to Hamas, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said he will not agree to a two-state solution while Hamas threatens Israeli security. Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly reiterated his vow to eliminate the group.

Meanwhile, international leaders urged Palestinian officials to accept Israel’s offer of a 40-day ceasefire in exchange for hostage releases. Hamas still holds more than 100 Israeli captives in Gaza, and the Israeli government offered to release Palestinian prisoners and cease hostilities for their freedom. The UK’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron urged Hamas to accept the deal, describing Israel as “generous.”

The Jewish state has reduced the number of hostages it will accept to 33 initially as it hopes to break a months-long deadlock.