Benjamin Netanyahu throws Hamas policy paper on Israel into the bin - literally

The Palestinian Hamas movement announced Saturday it had chosen its former Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh as the group's new political chief.

The 54-year-old with a salt-and-pepper beard takes charge as it seeks to ease its global isolation while not marginalising hardliners within the movement.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu symbolically tossed a Hamas policy paper into a bin that set out an apparent softening of Palestinian Islamist group's stance towards the country.

Hamas in its new document agrees to a transitional Palestinian state within frontiers pre-dating a 1967 war but continues to refuse to recognize a right for Israel to exist and backs an "armed struggle", while Abbas recognizes Israel and seeks a final peace agreement based on those lines.

In recent weeks, the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, has cut the wages of state employees in Gaza by up to a third while also informing Israel it will no longer pay for electricity being sent to Gaza.

That government was short-lived, in part because Hamas refused, then as now, to fulfill global conditions for recognition, including renouncing violence, recognizing Israel's right to exist, and accepting signed agreements between Israel and the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organization. In 1997, Haniyeh was appointed the head of the office of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip while Fatah, through the Palestinian National Authority, controls the West Bank.

Over the years, Hamas has carried out shootings, suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israel.

Despite its governance of Gaza for 10 years, Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

"His election is a sign that the Gaza leadership has regained the upper hand from those outside", she said.

Describe as "relatively unknown" to some foreign media before, he was under the spotlight after leading the Hamas movement that won the Palestinian legislative election of January 2006 and was named as Prime Minister.

In the decade since, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at civilian centers in Israel, survived three wars against the Israeli army, and, Israeli officials say, continuously built up its military force.

Hamas has been controlling the Strip since the election.

Mr Haniya, 54, lives in Gaza, which Hamas has ruled since 2007, unlike Mr Meshaal, who lives in Qatar. Israel and Egypt imposed a border blockade on Gaza after the Hamas takeover, keeping the territory's borders sealed most of the time.

Ismail Haniyeh was born in Shati refugee camp on May 23, 1963, where his parents fled from Ashkelon city after the Palestinian Nakba.

The decree also exempts Palestinians in Gaza from paying the Value Added Tax (VAT) in an attempt to deprive Hamas from collecting those tax revenues.

  • Leroy Wright