JERUSALEM, Israel - On Monday, Palestinian Authority negotiator Nabil Sha'ath said the P.A. will ask the European Union and the United States to remove Hamas from its list of terror organizations, ostensibly to pave the way for a Palestinian unity government.
Since its inception, Hamas' ideology has included what it calls the right of armed "resistance," which took the form of suicide bombings, sniper attacks, drive-by shootings, kidnappings and the like against Israeli citizens and soldiers, such as took place in the first (1987 - 1991) and second (2000 - 2004) intifadas (armed uprisings).
According to Israel's Foreign Ministry, Hamas carried out 425 terrorist attacks during the second intifada, including 52 of its trademark suicide bombings, which killed 377 Israelis and wounded 2,076 civilians and soldiers.
One of the most gruesome attacks took place on the first night of Passover in 2002, when a suicide bomber walked into the dining room at the Park Hotel in the coastal city of Netanya and blew himself up in the midst of 250 people celebrating the Passover Seder meal, killing 30 and wounding 140 more.
When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, Hamas expanded its network of weapons smuggling tunnels and production of explosive devices, mortars, Kassam and longer-range Grad-style Katyusha rockets, which can reach deep inside Israeli territory.
In June 2007, a year and a half after its stunning victory over Fatah in legislative elections, Hamas defeated the P.A.'s security forces in a bloody military-style coup and took control of the Gaza Strip.
Iran, Syria, and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terror group provide most of the funding and training for Hamas.
"Other Arab and Islamic states also support us," exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said during a visit to Tehran in 2009, "but the Iranian backing is in the lead," he said. Estimates of Iranian financial support range from $20 to $30 million annually.
Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and a Nazi sympathizer, said "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
Founded in late 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Mohammad Taha, senior members of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' primary goal is to replace the State of Israel with an Islamic state governed by sharia law.
The Hamas charter, written in 1988, describes the land of Israel as a waqf - an "inalienable religious endowment" - and calls for jihad ("holy" war) to eliminate Jews from Islamic holy land.
"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic waqf, consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered; it, or any part of it, should not be given up," the charter reads.
"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors," the charter states.
"After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."
According to the stated goals of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel and a future Palestinian state should live side by side in peace and security. But unless Hamas changes its ideology, which it has given no indication it is willing to do, a Fatah-Hamas unity government would be unlikely to live in peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state.