US President Donald Trump announced, in his speech before the Arab and Muslim leaders at the Riyadh Summit on 21 May, that Hamas is a terrorist movement and urged the countries of the region to eliminate extremism. He reiterated this in the speech he gave during his visit to Israel on 23 May, vowing to protect the “Israelis from Hezbollah and Hamas rockets”.
His speech at the Riyadh Summit did not refer to Hamas as a terrorist movement outright in an implicit reference to Saudi Arabia and the other Arab and Muslim countries’ rejection to go along with President Trump’s speech in accusing Hamas of terrorism. This is because this movement resists the Zionist occupation of Arab territories in accordance with international law.
A deeper look into the position of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt towards Hamas raises doubts and suspicion as their speeches reflect a different position. The core of these countries’ position intersects with the conditions of the International Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations), which was established in 2002 to follow the Arab-Zionist conflict. It demanded that Hamas recognise Israel, condemn violence (resistance) and accept the Oslo Accords.
In this context, we recall the visits made by Tony Blair, the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East, his meetings with Hamas leaders, and his call for the movement, during his visit to the Gaza Strip in February 2015, to accept the two-state solution as an end of the conflict with the Israeli occupation and not a temporary solution. He also urged Hamas to declare itself a Palestinian movement and not part of an Islamic movement with regional aspects and its acceptance of a national reconciliation that is achieved on the basis of a national programme based on a Palestinian state on the June 4th 1967 borders.
This was all on the condition of improving the situation in the Gaza Strip and reconstructing it, as well as a prelude for settling the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis via the two-state solution. This confirms the truth and the reason behind the siege on the Gaza Strip since 2007, with the participation of the Arabs and international complicity with the Israeli occupation.
The importance of these details and recalling them now is warranted by the Riyadh Summit and the recommendations that came from it, especially fighting “terrorism and extremism”. This flexible term can be applied to Hamas according to the interpretation of some Arab countries. In relation to this matter, retired Saudi General Anwar Eshki, who is close to the decision-making circles in Riyadh, recently (on 24/5/2017) urged Hamas to declare that it is not a terrorist movement by using its political charter against terrorism and to join the regional alliance to combat terrorist countries and organisations such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda. He also added that Hamas’ recognition of a Palestinian state on the June 4th 1967 borders might rid it of accusations of terrorism made against it. In other words, the movement’s failure to recognise the Israeli occupation or its failure to accept the Saudi peace initiative would subject it to accusations of terrorism, which must be eliminated in accordance with the recommendations of the Riyadh Summit.
Hence, the media attack launched against Qatar, which is friendly with Hamas and hosts its political leaders, since early morning on 24 May, i.e. only three days after the Riyadh Summit, indicates the beginning of a battle, by tying Doha and Tehran together, as well as Qatar and the “terrorist” organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, in accordance with the Saudi, Emirati and Egyptian classifications. It is also worth noting that the Saudi Arabian channel, Al-Arabiya described Hamas and Islamic Jihad as “extremist groups” stemming from the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran in one of its reports.
This context, which is dangerous for the future of the Palestinian cause and which targets the remaining wellness in the Arab and Palestinian body, pushes Hamas and the Palestinian resistance in general, to be careful and cautious. It also prompts them to reconsider their political relations to be ready the next time they are targeted.
The situation can no longer bear neutrality or the policy of refuge. The new strategic alliance, led by Riyadh, under the supervision of the US, will inevitably align with Israel in terms of intelligence and logistics, at the very least, under justifications of confronting Iran. This is a broader context to target Hamas and the Palestinian resistance as a necessary benefit of the developing alliance between Washington, Tel Aviv and the so-called Arab moderates.
Translated from Arabi21, 29 May 2017.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.