The Palestinian prisoners’ document:
The myth that it “recognises Israel”

Published: 29 June 2006
Briefing Number 177

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Summary: It is widely claimed by politicians and commentators that Hamas has “implicitly” recognised Israel and supported a “two-state solution” by endorsing the Palestinian “prisoners' document” drawn up in May 2006. A close reading of that document reveals that this is a myth. This Briefing explains why that document is incompatible with recognition of Israel and with a “two-state solution”.

The Palestinian prisoners' document

In May 2006, leaders of various Palestinian factions, currently in Israeli jails, published an 18-point document known as the ‘National Reconciliation Document'. Their purpose was primarily to reduce internal Palestinian strife. In June 2006 Hamas, as well as Fatah, were reported to have endorsed the document, leading commentators to claim that Hamas had “implicitly” recognised Israel . But a close reading of the document reveals that this is a myth, for the following reasons:-

No mention of peace, coexistence or a ‘two-state solution'

•  No mention is made of peace or coexistence with Israel

•  The document does not recognise Jewish national rights

•  The concept of a two-state solution, involving mutual recognition between Israel and a future Palestinian entity, is not mentioned once

A Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza stated to be a minimum demand

The only of the 18 points in the document which could be taken “implicitly” to recognise Israel is paragraph 1. It reads:-

“The Palestinian people in the homeland and abroad are seeking to liberate their lands and achieve freedom, the right of return and independence, including the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital on all the territories occupied in 1967….”

•  The goal is to “liberate their lands”. As is well known, Hamas and other Palestinian factions consider all of Palestine to be “their lands”

•  But the critical point is that the paragraph uses the word “including”. The establishment of a Palestinian state is part of the objective stated in paragraph 1 – it is not the fulfilment of their objective

•  The document leave it open to Palestinian groups to form a West Bank and Gaza state, and then use it as a platform to “liberate their lands”, fight Israel and pursue its destruction

•  This paragraph does not “implicitly recognise Israel ”

•  Far from it, it implicitly endorses continued armed struggle and the Palestinian view of a two-state solution as temporary only (for which see Beyond Images Briefings 150 and 166)

The document enshrines the ‘right of return' of all Palestinian refugees, which is incompatible with recognising Israel and a “two-state solution”

•  Both paragraph 1 and later paragraphs reiterate Palestinian demands for a “right of return” for all Palestinian refugees

•  Paragraph 8 demands that Palestinians must “double efforts to help the refugees and defend their rights and the formation of a popular body to emphasise the right of return and the need to stick to it…”

•  Nowhere is the “right of return” qualified in any way. It is an unconditional demand

•  The Palestinian demand for an unconditional “right of return” means the end of Israel as it currently exists. It is incompatible with a two-state solution

•  Far from “implicitly recognising Israel ” the document restates a position which is incompatible with the existence of Israel as a Jewish state

•  See Beyond Images Briefings 34 and 142 on why the right of return and recognition of Israel are irreconcilable

Endorsing continued violence, and ignoring direct negotiation with Israel

•  The document also endorses the right to “resist”, which should be “restricted” to lands occupied in 1967

•  The right to “resist” is a well-recognised euphemism for the killing by suicide bombings or otherwise of Israeli men, women and children

•  This is hardly compatible with recognition of Israel . There is no hint at achieve peace by means of negotiation or diplomacy with Israel

The remaining paragraphs of the document focus on internal Palestinian issues, or make other demands, such as the release of all Palestinian prisoners


Many commentators wish to portray Israel as unjustified in refusing to deal with Hamas. They are now minimising Palestinian rejectionism, by suggesting that the prisoner's document “implicitly recognises Israel ”. As this Briefing makes clear, the document does no such thing.