The Islamist Hamas organization, which controls the Gaza Strip, elected Ismail Haniyeh to head its political office, a leadership change that comes as the internationally recognized terror organization seeks to reconcile with its Western-backed Palestinian rivals. “Hamas movement finished the last phase of its internal elections and Ismael Haniyeh was elected as the leader of the political office for the movement. This proves that despite the hard and complicated situation, the movement could finish its elections in all of its phases, and elect Abu al-Abed (Ismael Haniyeh),” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
Haniyeh, who is the group’s former deputy chief, will replace the Qatar-based Khaled Meshaal, who steps down at the end of his term limit, at a time when Hamas appears to have softened its stance toward Israel, in a new policy document last week that did not specifically call for Israel’s destruction. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently rejected the document, accusing the media of completely distorting the truth by claiming that Hamas has moderated its aspiration of destroying the Jewish state. “Last week, headlines in CNN, Al-Jazeera and the Guardian said that Hamas now accepts a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines. The New York Times headline called this ‘moderation’.” He added, “The intimation is that Hamas now accepts the State of Israel. Great news, right? Well, except for one small detail: this is a complete distortion of the truth. The new Hamas document says that Israel has no right to exist. It says every inch of our land belongs to the Palestinians. It says there is no acceptable solution other than to remove Israel. So why does Hamas say there is a consensus for a smaller Palestinian state now? In order to destroy Israel later. They want to use their state to destroy our state.” He added, “Is moving from calling for genocide of all Jews to calling just for the annihilation of Israel, is that progress, or moderation? Only if you have no standards whatsoever. It’s bad enough that Hamas lies to the world. We don’t also have to lie to ourselves. Hamas murders women and children. It’s launched thousands of missile attacks at our homes. It brainwashes Palestinian kids in suicide kindergarten camps. So, where does this hate-filled document belong? Right there,” Israeli PM Netanyahu said.