Home inContext A More Diplomatic Hamas?

A More Diplomatic Hamas?

Michael Johnson

Hamas recently raised eyebrows by announcing plans to launch a diplomatic corps in the Gaza Strip. Dr. Ghazi Hamad, Deputy Foreign Minister for Hamas, said the new diplomats will help develop relationships between Hamas and the international community. Interviews have already started for new recruits among those living in Gaza and abroad.

According to Hamad, Hamas diplomats may operate outside of Gaza if the opportunity to do so is available. The deputy foreign minister also denied that the new diplomatic program indicates a deepening divide between the leaders in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. “The aim of such a step and training is to develop relations with world countries when time and conditions permit,” Hamad said, although he declined to say how many diplomats would be trained and where they would be stationed. Hamas delegations currently work in Iran, Lebanon, and Yemen.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi (R) meets with Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh in Cairo, Egypt.

Hamas is trying to capitalize on the rise of its ideological ally in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, and use it to gain further international recognition. Indeed, the Brotherhood’s electoral victory in Egypt’s parliament and presidency has allowed Hamas to grow closer with its powerful neighbor.

Hamas and Egyptian officials have both raised the idea of a free-trade zone, although neither have confirmed its establishment. Moreover, Hamas and Egypt reportedly formed a joint committee to investigate the August 5 attack on Sinai forces, as well as a committee to discuss other issues concerning the Egypt-Gaza border, according to the Chinese-run Xinhua news agency.

Whether or not Hamas’s diplomatic corps will operate outside of Gaza, its new move illustrates that the organization seeks to bolster its legitimacy as a governing body, rather than only a terror group, both inside and outside the Strip. But as long as Hamas continues to call for Israel’s destruction and allow Gaza’s terror groups to target civilians through rocket attacks as well as launch rockets itself, it remains a terror group that should be blacklisted from meetings with officials from any country.