A hint at Hamas 'reconciliation' this week with rival group Fatah, sent some commentators scuttling to roll out the civilized world's red carpet.
A report by the Associated Press last Thursday indicated that Hamas had agreed to join the PLO umbrella group that has represented the Palestinian Arab voice of 'Moderation' since the days of the Oslo Accords. Later that evening, exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal told AP that 'Hamas will focus on a strategy of holding mass protests against Israel in the style of the Arab Spring, although it is not renouncing the use of violence against the Jewish state.'
A certain Raphael Mimoun was practically swooning when he wrote in an article published on ynetnews.com that "if a group as extreme as Hamas is ready to compromise on the ideology it was founded on, maybe it is worth reconsidering our strategy towards the group."
With thinly veiled enthusiasm, the Forward's J.J. Goldberg also presented a picture of a 'non-violent' Hamas in an article entitled 'Does Hamas Joining PLO Mean It Accepts 2 States?'
However, despite their misguided optimism, the elementary mistake that they and so many others make is to confuse a change in strategy with a change in ideology.
Hamas leaders confirmed as such multiple times in recent days. On Sunday the Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas' "Foreign Minister" Osama Hamdan, had said that the decision to join the temporary PLO leadership did not mean Hamas would become part of the peace process with Israel.
"Anyone who thinks Hamas has changed its positions and now accepts the PLO's defeatist political program is living in an illusion," Hamdan stressed. "Hamas cannot make the mistake of joining a process that has proved to be a failed one over the past 20 years."
Another Hamas official Khalil Abu Leila said that one of the main goals in joining the PLO was to "bring the PLO back to its correct path and the goal for which it was established, namely the liberation of Palestine."
An indication of where this may lead came on Sunday when PA negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh, was quoted as saying that the Palestinians may cancel the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel.
The ideology of both Fatah, Hamas and by extension the PLO has always been perfectly aligned, as outlined in the Fatah constitution article 12, that their goal is to achieve 'complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.' Over the years they have been at odds over politics and modus operandi, but little more.
If any significant movement in the Fatah-Hamas relationship transpires throughout the coming months, make no mistake, there will be no shift in the sinister objectives of either group.
Only five days before the supposed reconciliation, at a rally of tens of thousands in Gaza, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called for the formation of an Arab army "to liberate Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque very soon." He declared,"We will lead intifada after intifada until the job is done."
Goldberg explains this away, by quoting a Haniyeh aide Ahmed Youssef who, in an interview with Egyptian daily Al-Masr Al-Youm indicated that Hamas 'has no choice but to give up violence.' Is he really convinced that in the space of a few days Hamas has reconfigured its founding ideology? He writes, "Both Al-Masr Al-Youm and the London-based Jane's... claim Hamas is being forced toward moderation and non-violence."
Since their formation these groups have consistently behaved in a decidedly Machiavellian fashion, as such temporary 'non-violence,' is by no means a symptom of 'moderation,' only a strategy to broaden support for extremist goals.
While overzealous columnists may persist in their determination to err on the side of risk, governments and decision makers that are responsible for the lives of millions have no excuse for such callous behavior. Israeli leaders are bound to adhere to that well-known authentic Jewish tenet of political dealings, 'he, who is merciful to the cruel, will end up being cruel to the merciful.' Hamas should be shown no mercy.