DOHA: Hamas unveiled a new policy document on Monday easing its stance on Israel after having called for years for the country’s destruction, as the Palestinian Islamist movement seeks to improve its international standing.
The move comes ahead of a first face-to-face meeting on Wednesday between US President Donald Trump and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, whose Fatah party remains deeply divided from Hamas.
The document was unveiled in the Qatari capital Doha by exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who is due to step down soon after serving his maximum of two terms.
Speaking to Agence France-Presse, Meshaal said he hoped the new US administration would “act with more seriousness on the Palestinian cause and change its misconceptions about the Palestinian people.”
The press conference was also broadcast live in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave controlled by Hamas, and the document was posted on the movement’s website.
“We in Hamas believe that renewal and reinvention is a necessity,” Meshaal said at the event in a Doha hotel.
While the new document does not amount to recognition of Israel as demanded by the international community, Hamas officials say, it formally softens its stance in a few key areas.
Hamas leaders have long spoken of the more limited aim of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without explicitly setting this out in their charter.
But after years of internal debate, the new document formally accepts the idea of a state in the territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.
It also says its struggle is not against Jews because of their religion but against Israel as an occupier.
“We are not fighting against the Jews because they are Jewish,” said Meshaal.
“We are waging this struggle against the aggression of Zionists,” he added.
However, the original 1988 charter will not be dropped, just supplemented, in a move some analysts see as a way of maintaining the backing of hardliners.
Asked if Hamas would negotiate directly with Israelis, Meshaal replied: “Our policy is we will not engage in direct negotiations with the Israelis because nothing in the conditions and circumstances convinces us that any conclusions can be reached.”
Direct talks is “a process, it’s a game we will not fall for it.”
The new document also continues to speak of liberating historic Palestine, including areas that are today part of Israel.