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Middle East

Hamas rebuffs renewed Israel-Palestinian peace initiative from Arab League


Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, today rejected a renewed Israel-Palestinian peace initiative backed by the Arab League.

The Arab League’s plan, which was presented during meetings in Washington earlier this week, is a revision of a proposal first tabled in 2002, which would see a Palestinian state with the 1967 boundaries as its borders.

For the first time, and in a move welcomed by the US which is trying to broker fresh talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, the Arab League conceded that land swaps may have to be agreed to take account of the so-called ‘facts on the ground’ or developments since 1967 including a number of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law.

This revision was however, been flatly rejected by Hamas. Speaking today, the organisation’s prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, argued that the concession was not in the gift of the Arab League.

“The so-called new Arab initiative is rejected by our people, by our nation and no one can accept it,” he said. “The initiative contains numerous dangers to our people in the occupied land of 1967, 1948 and to our people in exile. To those who speak of land swaps we say: Palestine is not a property, it is not for sale, not for a swap and cannot be traded.”

Hamas has consistently rejected the Arab League plans and does not recognise Israel’s right to exist. It is designated as a terrorist organisation by both the United States and the European Union.

Nonetheless, the outright rejection of the proposal is somewhat surprising. The initiative was presented on Monday by the Qatari prime minister who has been a major sponsor of Gaza and earlier this year Qatar donated $400m for housing regeneration in the territory.

An American push towards a new round of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which began with the visit of Barack Obama to Israel and the Palestinian territories in March, has only included talks with representatives of Fatah, the faction that controls the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank.

Despite the impetus provided by Mr Obama’s visit, and subsequent talks involving the US Secretary of State John Kerry, so far there a few signs of meaningful progress between the two sides.

In Gaza, meanwhile, an Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas after eight days of fighting last November has come under increasing pressure after a number of rocket attacks from Gaza and strikes on the territory by the Israeli air force. Earlier this week, the Israeli military carried out its first targeted killing in the territory since the assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, which precipitated the start of last year’s conflict.