Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hamas’s Concept of a Long-term Ceasefire: A Viable Alternative to Full Peace?

The celebration of Hamas 23rd anniversary
Photo Khalid Safi PalestineFreeVoice Image

By Dag Tuastad

January 18 2011

Executive summary
Hudna is the offer of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, of an extended ceasefire with Israel. There are two interpretations of this offer. The first is that the hudna is a tactic in order to have all of Palestine conquered. The second is that it is an Islamic method for conflict resolution which can lead to a permanent peace. In other words, the hudna is either a tactical ploy, or a serious offer for an Islamic peace process.

This study is based on interviews with Hamas leaders in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, as well as with representatives from other Palestinian groups thought to have an impact on the policy of Hamas. The study finds that the hudna is tactical rather than strategic in the sense that it is thought of as a means to gain an objective, rather than being a goal in itself. Nevertheless, one should not underestimate the significance of the hudna. A hudna has the potential of being something more than simply a tool to reach a goal. In Arab and Islamic tradition, a hudna constitutes a phase. First the ceasefire, hudna, then the sulh,reconciliation.The most common outcome of the hudna phase is a final peace agreement.

The possible omission of the right of return as a condition for a hudna is mainly what distinguishes the hudna from a final peace deal. A hudna is a partial solution and a temporary agreement. It is not a final peace agreement. As long as the refugee issue remains unsolved, Hamas cannot recognise Israel, as Hamas leaders do not regard themselves as having the legitimacy to decide on this issue on behalf of the refugees. The hudna, which does not imply recognition, means that Hamas can postpone the refugee issue. The whole point of the hudna is that it opens for agreements to be made where it is possible to agree, while at the same time the refugee issue, which is outside that window of opportunities, may be postponed.

Hamas’s ideas of a hudna are not very complicated. They basically comprise a suggestion of having a Palestinian state in exchange for an extended ceasefire. After the ceasefire, if there is trust and people are happy, then there will be peace. If not, there will not be peace. According to Hamas, this would be up to the next generation to decide.
Source: Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), November 2010


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