As Secretary of State John Kerry pushes ahead on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with two visits to the region in two weeks, Hamas and other Palestinian groups are saying they will never make peace with Israel, prompting Israeli politicians and journalists to question the point of negotiations.
Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas leader in Gaza, said last week that any deal inked between the Palestinian Authority and Israel would be “non-binding” on the Palestinian people.
"The Palestinian negotiators are illegitimate, neither they represent the national consensus nor they have the majority that allows them to speak on behalf the Palestinian people," Zahar said, according to Alalam.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laughs with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a press conference following a meeting at Netanyahu's Jerusalem office on Dec. 5, 2013. (AFP/Getty Images/Gali Tibbon)
While Kerry and President Barack Obama are voicing optimism about the negotiations, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett called holding peace talks that don’t include Gaza’s leaders “a joke.” Earlier this week, he compared the peace process to buying a car.
“Imagine you’re negotiating over a car with someone who only owns half the car, and the owner of the other half says he won’t recognize any agreement you reach. You give him all the money but only get half the car,” Bennett said, according to the Times of Israel.
“The Hamas announcement serves as a reminder that any U.S.-brokered deal between Israel and the [Palestinian Authority] will not mean the end of the conflict,” Jerusalem Post Arab affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in a column for the Gatestone Institute.
Toameh said it’s not only Hamas that's opposed to any negotiated deal, but most Palestinian Liberation Organization groups also would reject an agreement, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as well as the militant religious group Islamic Jihad.
“Given Hamas' announcement that it would not honor or recognize any deal signed between the PA and Israel, Kerry needs to take into account that any peace agreement will not put an end to the conflict,” Toameh wrote. “In the future, Hamas and the other rejectionist groups will say that Abbas did not have a mandate from his people to sign an agreement with Israel.”
Toameh wrote: "Hamas and its Palestinian allies will in any case never accept Israel's right to exist. So even if Abbas today gets 100 percent of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem to establish a Palestinian state, Hamas, which represents a substantial part of the Palestinian population, will continue to fight to 'liberate the rest of Palestine.'"
"Our battle is not outside Palestine. Rather, it is inside Palestine. Our program is to liberate Palestine,” Hamas leader Zahar said.
Toameh implored Kerry to acknowledge that reality.
“Kerry needs to listen to these voices and take them into account as he continues to talk about a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not enough to listen to what Abbas and chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat are telling him in English. Kerry needs to listen to what Hamas and other groups are saying in Arabic,” Toameh wrote.
Over the weekend, three Qassam rockets were fired by Palestinians toward southern Israel but fell short of their targets and landed inside Gaza.