By Kaamil Ahmed
The Gaza-based Hamas movement revealed a dramatic change in its stance on Israel Monday when it officially announced revisions to its controversial charter.
At a press conference in Qatar, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal revealed the new document, which no longer pledges Israel's destruction but does accept a Palestinian state along the border set before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
It also accepted the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the "national framework" for Palestinians.
"The document is available to anyone who wants to know about Hamas and its policies," Mashal said. "The document reflects the consensus and reconciles Islamic and international principles."
The new manifesto also reflected common vision of all Hamas leaders and institutions, he added.
He said four years ago the group decided to produce the new guidelines, which were drafted over the last two years with input from international lawyers.
Hamas described the long-awaited document as a set of "general principles and policies" rather than a replacement for their founding charter, which their critics have often cited as evidence the group would not be committed to any peace deal with Israel.
Hamas leaders have previously floated the idea of accepting a long-term truce with Israel that established a Palestinian state along the 1967 border, but Monday's announcement meant it became official Hamas policy.
Ahmad Yusuf, a senior Hamas leader considered one the organization's pragmatists, said the new document signaled "an important shift in the way Hamas is thinking" that will give it more flexibility internationally.
"There is a lot considered new when compared to the charter of 1988 in the way we talk about Jews. The problem is not with the Jewish people or their religion, the problem is with the Israeli project and occupation," he told Anadolu Agency. "This is a very important declaration from Hamas."
In his remarks, Hamas chief Mashal reiterated that their struggle against Israeli Jews was not over faith, but "Zionist" occupation.
"Hamas is not fighting with them (Israelis) because they are Jews, but fighting aggressive invader Zionists," said Mashal.
He said it also underlines that opposition to Israel does not need to be through armed means and that the document is more suited to their current position, as the ruling faction in the blockaded Gaza Strip, than the founding charter, which was intended to motivate Palestinians during the First Intifada uprising against Israeli rule.
He said the group went through the charter and removed elements they believed could be used to portray them as anti-Semitic but that despite accepting a state on the pre-1967 borders, "this doesn't mean we are going to recognize Israel or forget the refugees’ right of return."
Israeli prime ministerial spokesman David Keyes dismissed the document, accusing Hamas of unsuccessfully "attempting to fool the world" while continuing to use violence against Israel.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.