What’s happened: Home Secretary Priti Patel has told reporters in the US that she intends to proscribe all of Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
- Last night she said: “We’ve taken the view that we can no longer disaggregate the sort of military and political side. It’s based upon a wide range of intelligence, information and also links to terrorism. The severity of that speaks for itself.”
- She argued that proscribing Hamas would send a “very, very strong message to any individual that thinks that it’s OK to be a supporter of an organisation such as that”.
- Secretary Patel will make a formal announcement later today, where she is expected to say in her speech: “Hamas has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist training facilities, and it has long been involved in significant terrorist violence. But the current listing of Hamas creates an artificial distinction between various parts of the organisation – it is right that the listing is updated to reflect this. This is an important step, especially for the Jewish community. If we tolerate extremism, it will erode the rock of security.”
- Lord Austin of Dudley, the UK’s trade envoy to Israel and a former Labour minister who left the party in protest against former leader Corbyn, said: “I am delighted the home secretary has banned the genocidal terrorists of Hamas who are opposed to any peace agreement, want to wipe Israel off the map, and murder the Jews who live there. They caused this year’s conflict by firing thousands of rockets at indiscriminately at Israeli civilians, but they also rule Gaza in exactly the same way ISIS ran the land it controlled. Women are treated terribly, gay men are killed, and opponents are arrested and executed. Hamas and ISIS are merely different faces of the same Islamist threat that hates the West, our allies in the Middle East and everything we stand for.”
- Foreign Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the decision and thanked Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and Foreign Minister Liz Truss and the entire British Government for the decision. He added: “This is an important and significant decision that gives British security bodies additional tools to prevent the continued intensification of the terrorist organisation Hamas, including in Britain. There is no legitimate part to a terrorist organisation and any attempt to separate parts of a terrorist organisation is artificial. The statement, which is expected today, concludes an intimate and successful dialogue between Israel and the United Kingdom, led by the Foreign Ministry and our embassy staff in London, headed by Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, and we thank the British for their fruitful cooperation on this issue as well.”
Context: Until now, the UK has banned only Hamas’ military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. This new move will bring the UK in line with the US, Canada, and the EU in proscribing the whole of Hamas as a terror organisation. This means that its assets can be seized, and its members jailed.
- Founded in 1987, Hamas has been responsible for the murder of hundreds of Israeli civilians, notably employing suicide bombers from the 1990s and 2000s.
- Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and it has been firm and explicit in its rejection of any peace process and the recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
- The central aim of Hamas is to establish an Islamic state in all the territory defined as ‘Palestine’ (from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River) through armed struggle.
- Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a violent coup in 2006 kicking out the Palestinian Authority. Since then, they have intermittently launched thousands of rockets towards Israel.
- Most recently in May, Hamas fired over 4,000 rockets toward Israel.
- The current Israeli government operates a policy of distinction that looks to empower moderate Palestinian political forces within the Palestinian Authority.
In Parallel: Earlier this week, Israeli Minister for Regional Affairs Issawi Frej announced the resumption of political talks. The talks will focus on economic cooperation and held in the context of the joint Israeli-Palestinian Economic Committee, which has not convened for the last eight years ago.
- According to Frej: “As long as it is up to Foreign Minister Lapid and me, the Israeli government won’t take steps that will render the chances of a peace agreement on the basis of two states for two peoples impossible.”
- Frej also presented Israel’s demand for Hamas to release the Israeli captives being held inside the Gaza Strip as an important criteria to allow in more significant investment into the Gaza Strip.
- Egypt is leading efforts to reach an Israeli-Hamas prisoner exchange, that would in turn lead to a longer truce agreement between the two sides.
Looking ahead: Secretary Patel is expected to push through the legislative change in parliament next week.
- According to the proposed law change, showing support for Hamas, which included flying its flag, wearing clothes or facilitating meetings with Hamas members could face years in prison under the Terrorism Act 2000.
- Next week President Isaac Herzog will make an official visit to the UK, he will meet with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, members of Parliament and other dignitaries.