The Islamic militant group Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian Authority last week, says it is prepared to soften its position toward Israel. Israel is skeptical.
Hamas officials say they are prepared to consider a two-state solution with Israel. That appears to be a major about-face for a group whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. The two-state platform will be presented to the Hamas-led Palestinian Cabinet on Monday, and officials say they expect it to be approved.
Hamas officials admit that they are responding to international sanctions which have left the new government broke. The European Union announced Friday that it has cut off direct aid payments to the Palestinian Authority because Hamas refuses to renounce violence and recognize Israel. The United States has already suspended aid, and including European donations, that amounts to nearly $1 billion a year in lost funding to the Palestinians.
Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says Hamas is coming to realize that running an underground guerrilla group is different that running a government.
"I believe that Hamas will have, sooner or later, to recognize Israel," said Nasser.
Hamas did not spell out what kind of two-state solution it envisions, but it is likely to be much different than what Israel believes it can live with. Israeli spokesman Mark Regev describes the latest Hamas gestures as "verbal gymnastics."
"Hamas will not be considered a legitimate partner for any sort of dialogue, if they; one, don't recognize Israel; two, don't renounce terrorism; and three, don't accept the peace process," he said.
So far, those international demands have been rejected by Hamas. Israeli officials say the offer of a two-state solution is a ploy to divert international pressure and restore the flow of aid to the Palestinian Authority.