Speed Reads

Mideast Peace

Hamas drops demand that Israel be destroyed, amid growing Palestinian power struggle

On Wednesday, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas will meet with President Trump in the White House, as Trump begins a push to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. On Monday, Hamas, the rival Palestinian faction to Abbas' Fatah, unveiled a newly revised charter that dropped the group's explicit call for Israel's destruction, distanced itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, formally accepted a provisional Palestinian state along the borders established by the 1967 Middle East war, and weakened anti-Jewish language from its 1988 charter, though Hamas did not renounce the goal of taking over the land now held by Israel or recognize Israel.

"This charter demonstrates our political vision and will be taught to our supporters," Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Monday in Doha, Qatar, where Hamas has its headquarters. "The 1988 charter represented our vision at that time and this one represents our vision now." Hamas, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and other Western nations, has controlled the Gaza Strip for a decade, while Fatah runs the West Bank. In moderating its tone, analysts say, Hamas is bidding for more international legitimacy and trying to edge into the role of dominant faction in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which represents all Palestinians in international organizations. Fatah recognizes Israel.

Abbas is 82 and unpopular, and Fatah leaders are openly vying to succeed him, but while Hamas could gain popularity in the Palestinian territories, analysts say, Israel and the U.S. are unlikely to view the group much differently. The official moderation is "an attempt to grab market share," Jonathan Schanzer at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tells The Wall Street Journal. "It's a very calculated shift, but I think the Trump administration is not going to see Hamas any differently ... it's a softening of rhetoric, not a change of behavior." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pointed to the divide between Hamas and Fatah as a reason not to reopen peace negotiations.