Hudna

This concept stems from Arab-Muslim tradition and refers to a time-limited truce. Its nature and significance has been debated in the context of ISraeli-Palestinian relations

Definition

The concept "Hudna" stems from the Arab-Muslim tradition and refers to a reciprocal truce under agreed-upon conditions and for a specified time period.In the context of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the concept refers to a suggested framework for achieving a cease-fire between the two sides. However, the conditions for declaring Hudna, its purpose and its binding status are unclear.

Background

The literal meaning of Hudna is: "pause, cessation, truce, armistice"1. In the Arab-Muslim tradition, Hudna makes possible a cessation in fighting for the sake of negotiations between rival tribes.2

There are two opposing approaches regarding the purpose of Hudna:

  1. Conflict resolution method: Hudna is a cease-fire between rival parties for a specified time-period, during which the parties negotiate reconciliation.3
    This interpretation relies on the current function of Hudna in conflict resolution within the Arab-Muslim society,4 and on historical precedents of inter-religion and international conflicts.5 According to this approach, Hudna is a binding obligation on the parties to the conflict.6
  2. Method of gaining military advantages: Hudna is a temporary cease-fire, which serves to replenish military strength before the parties return to battle. It is considered a method of Jihad (Muslim holy war against infidels), and reflects neither a will to resolve the conflict nor an obligation to maintain the truce.7
    This approach stems from the precedent of the Treaty of Hudaybiya, signed in 628 between the Prophet Muhammad and the Quraysh tribe, and later broken by Muhammad in 630, after he had acquired enough power to conquer Mecca.8

Hudna and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Up until the last decade, the concept of Hudna was not a part of the Israeli-Palestinian political discourse. However, it should be noted that some Arabic sources refer to the 1949 Armistice Lines as the "1949 Hudna Lines".9

Although it has been used frequently in recent years, it seems that there is still no coherent perception of the meaning of Hudna in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian political process. The idea of Hudna has appeared in relation to various events:

Israeli Civil Initiative (2001-2002)

During 2001, Eyal Erlich, Prof. Joseph Ginat and former Knesset member Abdulwahab Darawshe promoted an Israeli civil initiative to employ the concept of Hudna as a method to achieve a truce between Israel and the Palestinians, which would allow resumption of negotiations towards a peace agreement.10

Egypt, Jordan, the US and the Palestinians supported the idea of Israel's president speaking to the Palestinian Legislative Council and calling on the Palestinian people to declare a Hudna with Israel. However, the Government of Israel rejected the idea in January 2002.11

Egyptian Mediation Efforts (2002-2003)

During 2002-2003 Egypt mediated between Palestinian armed factions and the PA in an effort to reach an agreement on a temporary cease-fire with Israel.

These efforts have come to fruition in a general agreement between the factions. On 6/29/03 three separate declarations were published – one on behalf of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another by Fatah and a third one by the PLO.12 Out of the three, only Fatah explicitly declared a Hudna. The PLO, Hamas and Islamic Jihad refrained from including the word in their declarations, and instead referred to "freezing military activity".13

Once again, Israel rejected the Hudna declaration referring to it as Hamas' attempt to replenish its military strength, and PA's attempt to avoid its obligation to dismantle terror infrastructures.14

Tahdiah instead of Hudna (3/05)

On 3/15/05 another round of talks between representatives of Palestinian factions was held in Cairo. Despite attempts made by Abu Mazen, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, to declare a year-long Hudna, the other representatives agreed only to declare a Tahdiah – which means "lull" or "pacification", and has no obligatory or traditional context.15

Hamas Following its Electoral Victory (1/06 - )

Since the signing of the Oslo Agreement (9/93) Hamas officials have declared that they were willing to consider a Hudna under the conditions that Israel withdraw to the 1967 lines and release all Palestinian prisoners. So far Israel has rejected all such suggestions.16

Since Hamas' victory in the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (1/06) Hamas officials have made several statements on the subject, some of which were self-contradicting: alongside reports on Hamas' willingness to continue the current Tahdiah (lull) and even unilaterally declare an unconditional Hudna,17 statements made by other Hamas leaders rejected the idea of a long-term Hudna.18



1 Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, (London, 1974).
2 Danny Rubinstein, "Hunting the Elusive Hudna", Ha'aretz, 6/24/03.
3 Dafna Golan-Agnon, Ha'aretz, 1/4/02 (In Hebrew).
4 On the role of Hudna in conflict resolution processes, see George Irani and Nathan Funk, "Rituals of reconciliation: Arab-Islamic perspectives", Arab Studies Quarterly, 20;4 (Fall, 1998), p. 53.
5 See Joseph Ginat, "Hudna: Origins of the Concept and its relevance to the Arab-Israeli Conflict" in Elie Podeh and Asher Kaufman (eds.), Arab-Jewish Relations, (Sussex Academic Press, 2006), pp. 251-276. Historical precedents refer, inter alia, to Hudna agreements signed between Salah A-Din and the Crusaders, and to a Hudna declared between Spain and Morocco in 1860, during which the parties reached a peace agreement.
6 Ibid, p. 254.
7 Moshe Sharon, "Hudna and Sulh Do not Mean Peace", Nativ, (March, 2005).
8 On the Treaty of Hudaybiya see Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History, (London, 1950). Opinions regarding the nature of the Hudaybiya precedent differ. Some claim that the precedent serves as justification for breaching agreements signed with infidels. Others claim it justifies reaching peace agreements when circumstances require so, and proves that violence is not the only way to solve conflicts, see Emanual Sivan, Ha'aretz, 5/17/96 (In Hebrew). In signing the peace agreement with Israel in 1978, the Egyptian president quoted a religious order based on the Treaty of Hudaybiya (see Guy Bechor, Ha'aretz, 5/24/94).
10 For details on the initiative, from its inception to its results see Eyal Erlich, Hudna: A Political Adventure, (Tel Aviv, 2005) (In Hebrew).
11 Israeli responses to the initiative show that the government and the military did not believe in the sincerity of the Palestinian acceptance of the Hudna, and assumed it to be a trick aimed at replenishing their military strength. It should be noted that when the initiative was presented to the government, it had already received information regarding the PA's attempt to smuggle weapons on board the ship "Karine A". Ibid, pp. 35-109; see also Hanna Kim, Ha'aretz. 1/4/02 (In Hebrew).
12 Other Palestinian factions, such as the Popular Front, the Democratic Front and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades announced their objection to the declaration. For details on the content of the declarations see MEMRI, "the Domestic Palestinian Dispute over the Hudna", Inquiry and Analysis Series – No. 144, July 25, 2003.
13 The declarations also differed in the length of the cease-fire and the conditions for maintaining it. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad conditioned the cease-fire upon ceasing all Israeli hostilities towards the Palestinians and releasing all Palestinian and Arab prisoners from Israeli jails; Fatah and the PLO added to these demands Israel's withdrawal from territories re-occupied since 09/00, the arrival of international observers and declaration of Israel's commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders.
14 Erlich, Ibid, p. 237. The PA's obligation to dismantle terrorist infrastructures was stipulated in the "Roadmap".
15 On the negotiations between the factions see MEMRI, "Abu Mazen's Presidency: an Interim Assessment", Inquiry and Analysis Series – No. 223, May 23, 2005.
16 Ze'ev Schiff, Ha'aretz, 4/7/06 (In Hebrew). One such proposal was made in 1997 through Jordanian mediation, several days before an Israeli attempt to assassinate Khaled Mash'al (Black, the Guardian, 5/4/06).
17 Schiff, Ibid. see also "Abbas, Egypt tough on Hamas", Al-Jazeera, 2/1/06.

18 Khaled Mash'al declared that Hamas is not considering a long-term Hudna, Al-Ayam, 2/9/06.