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Hamas to soften stance on Israel, Muslim Brotherhood in policy document: Arab sources

Reuters , Monday 1 May 2017
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The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas will drop its long-standing call for Israel's destruction as well as its association with the Muslim Brotherhood in a new policy document to be issued on Monday, Gulf Arab sources said.

Hamas's move appears aimed at improving relations with the West, Gulf Arab states and Egypt, which label the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.

Many Western countries classify Hamas as a terrorist group over its failure to renounce violence, recognise Israel's right to exist and accept existing interim Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements.

Israel rejected the reported document, calling it an attempt by Hamas to delude the world that it was becoming a more moderate group.

The Gulf Arab sources said Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, will say in the document that it agrees to a transitional Palestinian state along the borders from 1967, when Israel captured Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a war with Arab states. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

A future state encompassing Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem along 1967 borders is the goal of Hamas' main political rival, the Fatah movement led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His Palestinian Authority has engaged in peace talks with Israel on that basis, although the last, U.S.-mediated round collapsed three years ago.

The revised Hamas political document, to be announced later on Monday, will still reject Israel's right to exist and back "armed struggle" against it, the Gulf Arab sources told Reuters.

"Hamas is attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed," said David Keyes, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "They dig terror tunnels and have launched thousands upon thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians," he said. "This is the real Hamas."

Israel waged three wars against Hamas since 2007.

It remained unclear whether the document replaces or changes in any way Hamas's 1988 charter, which calls for Israel’s destruction and is the Islamist group's covenant.

A Hamas spokesman in Qatar declined to comment. There was no immediate comment from Egypt and Gulf Arab states.

Arab sources said the Hamas document was being released ahead of a planned visit by Abbas to Washington on May 3 and as Donald Trump administration prepares to make a renewed push for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Analysts say the revised document could allow Hamas to mend relations with Western countries and pave the way for a reconciliation agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, now also headed by Abbas.

U.S.-allied Arab states including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia classify the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation. The 89-year-old Brotherhood held power in Egypt for a year after a popular uprising in 2011.

The Brotherhood denies links with Islamist militants and advocates Islamist political parties winning power through elections, which Saudi Arabia considers a threat to its system of absolute power through inherited rule.

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