Hamas has repeatedly offered a renewable 10-year truce

IssueDecember 2023 - January 2024
Sit-down protest against the war in Gaza in Waterloo station on 28 October. PHOTO: Sisters Uncut via Twitter
Feature by Milan Rai

On 10 November, former Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman expressed her concerns about the ‘Ceasefire Now’ marchers due to demonstrate in London the following day. Freeman told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: ‘First of all, I would ask them, you know, what they think is going to happen if there’s a ceasefire?

‘Hamas has said that they will not stop until Israel is annihilated. And the fact is there are still 200 Israeli hostages being held and still 1,400 people who were tortured and murdered in the most horrible of ways by Hamas in Israel.

‘If there is a ceasefire, this is just going to keep happening to Israeli people. It’s all very well calling for peace but how can you call for peace when Israel is living next door to a terrorist group that specifically wants to kill the people there?’

This is a widespread view of the situation, and a major reason for the high level of support for the current Israeli war of destruction in Gaza.

On 15 November, YouGov found that only 33 percent of people in Britain thought the UK should ‘oppose Israel’s military actions and push for them to call a ceasefire’. The exact same proportion, 33 percent, thought the UK should support Israel’s military actions (though 24 percent believed there should be a temporary ceasefire to allow in aid).

It’s true that the armed wing of Hamas has carried out many attacks on civilians in the past, including suicide bombings in buses, cafes and restaurants. It’s true that the armed wing of Hamas (along with fighters from other Palestinian groups) carried out war crimes against Israeli civilians on 7 October. And it’s true that the founding charter of Hamas in 1988 spouted antisemitic propaganda, rejected the idea of peace negotiations, and quoted approvingly a call for Islam to ‘obliterate’ Israel.

30 years of offers

It is also true that Hamas has consistently, repeatedly and publicly offered Israel a 10-year truce or hudna – on condition that Israel withdraw to its 1967 borders, something that PN has reported before (PN 2496, 2506, 2552 – 2553). Sometimes Hamas has been explicit that the truce would be renewable.

1994: Hamas founder sheik Ahmed Yassin is interviewed in an Israeli prison by the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Hayat. He says Hamas would be open to a truce with Israel lasting no longer than 10 years, provided Israel withdrew completely from Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

1997: Yassin tells Associated Press (AP) that he would accept a 10-year truce if Israel withdrew troops and settlers from all of the West Bank and Gaza.

In October 1997, Yassin tells Barton Gellman of the Washington Post that the truce could be renewable: ‘God didn’t make the heavens and the earth in one day. He made them in six days, and we are prepared to accept a truce for a specific time, to give the region some security and peace for a while. If there is no trouble between us, the truce will continue again and again.’

Yassin’s demands are the same as the mainstream Palestinian movement, an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders. Yassin adds that the 10-year truce does not mean accepting the legitimacy of Israel, or giving up Islam’s claim to all the land of former Palestine. Yassin says that Israel’s obliteration as a nation ‘is an expectation in the future. I say this from my reading of history.’

1999: In May, Yassin tells the Egyptian al-Ahram newspaper (and USA Today): ‘We have to be realistic. We are talking about a homeland that was stolen a long time ago in 1948 and again in 1967. My generation today is telling the Israelis, “Let’s solve this problem now, on the basis of the 1967 borders. Let’s end this conflict by declaring a temporary ceasefire. Let’s leave the bigger issue for future generations to decide.”’

“We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition”

2004: Abdel Aziz Rantissi, a leader of Hamas’s political wing, tells Reuters on 27 January: ‘We accept a state in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. We propose a 10-year truce in return for [Israeli] withdrawal and the establishment of a state.’ He says that it is ‘difficult to liberate all the land [including Israel] at this stage, so we accept a phased liberation.’

On 3 December 2004, the top Hamas leader in the West Bank, sheik Hassan Yousef, tells AP: ‘Hamas has announced that it accepts a Palestinian independent state within the 1967 borders with a long-term truce.’ He goes on: ‘For us a truce means that two warring parties live side by side in peace and security for a certain period, and this period is eligible for renewal’ (emphasis added).

2005: Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas, tells al-Jazeera on 20 March: ‘If Hamas enters the government, it is ready to accept a long-term truce and keep the conflict open. The issue does not necessarily have to be settled by this generation. There are countries that remained under occupation for long years. Therefore, if our generation cannot act, it must not make concessions.’ This means not accepting the permanence of Israel, but living in peace for a long period.

2006: On 26 February 2006, Newsweek-Washington Post reporter Lally Weymouth asks what agreements Hamas is prepared to honour. The newly-elected Palestinian prime minister, Hamas’s leader Ismail Haniyeh, answers: ‘the ones that will guarantee the establishment of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital with 1967 borders’.

On 1 November 2006, an adviser to Haniyeh, Ahmed Yousef, publishes an Op-Ed in the New York Times which opens with these words: ‘Here in Gaza, few dream of peace. For now, most dare only to dream of a lack of war. It is for this reason that Hamas proposes a long-term truce during which the Israeli and Palestinian peoples can try to negotiate a lasting peace.’

Yousef goes on: ‘A truce is referred to in Arabic as a “hudna.” Typically covering 10 years, a hudna is recognized in Islamic jurisprudence as a legitimate and binding contract. A hudna extends beyond the Western concept of a cease-fire and obliges the parties to use the period to seek a permanent, nonviolent resolution to their differences.

‘The Koran finds great merit in such efforts at promoting understanding among different people. Whereas war dehumanizes the enemy and makes it easier to kill, a hudna affords the opportunity to humanize one’s opponents and understand their position with the goal of resolving the intertribal or international dispute.’

2008: Hard-line Hamas leader Khaled Meshal tells reporters in Damascus, on 21 April 2008, that the organisation was willing to agree a 10-year truce, unofficially recognising the state of Israel: ‘We agree to a [Palestinian] state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements but without recognizing Israel. We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition.’

Killing the hudna

All of these offers have been rejected out of hand by the Israeli government, and almost completely written out of history by the Western media.

In November 2012, the possibility of a hudna was killed off when a hard-line Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jaabari, who was contemplating a long truce with Israel, was assassinated by an Israeli airstrike just after receiving a proposal from a mediator, leading Israeli peace activist, Gershon Baskin.

Baskin, who played a critical role in mediating the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011, says: ‘The assassination of Jaabari was a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of a long-term ceasefire.’

Journalist Reuven Pedatzur of Haaretz wrote: ‘Israel’s leaders killed three birds with one stone: They assassinated the man who had the power to make a deal with Israel; they took revenge on someone who had caused more than a few Israeli casualties; and they signaled to Hamas that communications with it will be conducted only through military force.’

One of the most powerful lies of the current Palestinian crisis is the claim that ‘there is no partner for peace’ – and that Hamas in particular is an irreconcilable fundamentalist force of destruction. The reality, successfully suppressed throughout the British media, is that Hamas has long offered a long-term truce with Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders.

The offers have been made. Mouin Rabbani, an analyst with the respected International Crisis Group, once said: ‘it would be as naïve to take the above statements on faith as it would be foolish not to put them to the test.’