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What does Hamas have to offer Israel?

by Sunny on 1st March, 2006 at 9:35 pm    

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the P.L.O. has written a piece for New York Times, published today. Some highlights:

Mr. Abbas, however, is not ultimately to blame. When he called on Israel to lift restrictions on Palestinian movement and trade within and between Palestinian areas, Israel refused — despite similar calls from the World Bank, the United Nations, the European Union and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In reality, however, the vote was neither a rejection of President Abbas and his peace program nor an endorsement of the Hamas charter. According to recent polls, nearly 70 percent of Palestinians still support Mr. Abbas as president. And 84 percent of Palestinians still want a negotiated peace agreement with Israel. Even among Hamas voters, more than 60 percent of those polled support an “immediate” resumption of negotiations.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, which Mr. Abbas also leads, is the sole representative of Palestinians everywhere and therefore the only real negotiating partner. Its mandate remains unaffected by the parliamentary elections.

If Israel continues to exploit the Hamas victory to claim that it has “no partner” for talks and avoid negotiations — and if the international community remains indifferent — the conflict can only deteriorate.

[hat tip Intafada Kid]

While I don’t agree with Israel’s unilateralist approach by ignoring pretty much everyone on UN conventions or the ‘roadmap for peace’, Erekat can’t really get away without mentioning Hamas’s continued calls for the destruction of Israel. Nobody would really want to negotiate with a terrorist organisation. Israel, on it’s part, cannot pretend it can put off negotiating the two-state settlement forever. The more it drags everything out the more things worsen on both sides.

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  1. Intifada Kid — on 1st March, 2006 at 10:47 pm  

    Sunny - thanks for posting.

    I have some issues with parts of this op-ed, but the central message - that Israel’s claims that is has no partner for peace are disingenuous - is right on the mark.

    Israel has been dismissing the ‘relevancy’ of Palestinian Presidents - first Yasser Arafat and then Mahmoud Abbas -since the breakdown of the Camp David Peace Talks in 2000, for which Israel tried to blame the Palestinians. Its messaging hasn’t changed since then and would have remained the same no matter what the results of the PLC elections.

    For five years, Israel’s agenda has been to crush Palestinian resistance to Israel’s occupation using brute military force, demolish the infrastructure of the PA and lock the Palestinian population behind concrete walled ghettos and razor wire fences so as to continue taking Palestinian land and resources and avoid fulfilling its responsibilities as the Occupying Power under international law.

    And it is desperately important to hammer home the point that Israel is not obliged to negotiate on final status issues with the PA, but with the PLO. It doesn’t matter who dominates the PA as far as negotiations are concerned, because the PA - an institution itself created by negotiations - only ‘governs’ the minority of Palestinians who happen to live in the OPT, whereas the PLO remains the sole representative of all Palestinians everywhere. (And of course the limitations of Israeli occupation essentially render the PA a useless institution - since a teenage Israeli soldier has more control of movement in the West Bank than any Palestinian President.)

    As for Hamas’s continued calls for the destruction of Israel, I think Sunny’s reading overlooks the fact that Hamas leaders are actually sounding increasingly moderate these days. For instance, on Sunday, the Washington Post published an interview with PM-elect Ismail Haniyeh in which the following question and answer was printed:

    q) Will you recognize Israel?

    a) If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognize them.

    see this Washington Post article.

    For those who have followed Hamas’s development from its infantile (and despicable) founding charter to its status as a dominant party in the PA, it is the trend towards greater pragmatism that is most noteworthy. (Although they still have quite some way to go to catch up with Palestinian public opinion.)

  2. S.O..Muffin — on 1st March, 2006 at 11:54 pm  

    Just for the record, Ismail Haniyeh claims that he was misrepresented by NY Times. But that’s a minor point.

    As often in this particular conflict, there are no guys in white hats and any attempt to idealize one side or the other is conducive neither to understanding nor solving this mess.

    The Palestinians have spoken in democratic elections. They have a Hamas government, elected fairly and squarely. Hence it is disingeneous to claim that Muhammad Abbas (one of the most decent man in a situation in which decency is at premium) and PLO can speak for Palestinians, no matter what Intifada Kid (or I, for that matter) might wish.

    Secondly, there is no way Israel, or any other country, can negotiate with a government openly and declaratively guided by an ideology committed to its destruction. It is equally unacceptable that Israel will accept the very curious idea of withdrawing to 1967 borders in exchange for a truce – until Hamas is strong enough to break it? Either the conflict is solved, there is full withdrawal for full peace, or it is not.

    Thirdly, this doesn’t let israel off the hook. What Israel should do (once elections are over) is to declare what it is willing to yield in exchange for peace: ideally, withdrawal to the 1967 borders or thereabouts, along the lines of the Geneva Accord. The quid pro quo being full peace and mutual recognition of the legitimacy of both national projects. If the Hamas government is willing, perhaps slowly, to come round to this point of view – wonderful. If they don’t, this will create a true incentive for Palestinians to seek new government.

    Fourthly, until there is adequate response from the Palestinian side (and I believe that there are voices there, not least Abbas himself, who will embrace this line of action), Israel should strive to make the occupation less oppressive: stop land confiscation, start removing settlements in the Occupied Terrirories, remove road-blocks inside West Bank and, in general, make the life of Palestinians easier.

    Both sides made similar strategic blunder in the last five years. Palestinians, in believing that suicide bombings and terror will bring Israel to its knees, managed to shatter the Israeli peace camp and make the hawks more hawkish. Israel, in believing that strong-arm tactics will sap Palestinian will, brought Hamas to power. Not very clever.

  3. Sunny — on 2nd March, 2006 at 12:33 am  

    I think Sunny’s reading overlooks the fact that Hamas leaders are actually sounding increasingly moderate these days.

    If by that you mean they’re not constantly screaming that Israel should be destroyed - then frankly it’s not that good enough IK.

    Muffin is right in that Israel is understandable cautious about giving up land when the circling enemies are still happy to destroy it completely. I don’t envisage Israel going back to the 1967 borders until Hamas, Iran and all the rest have recognised its right to exist on those borders.

    Hamas is in a position similar to that of India. After years of tolerating corruption and cronyism, the Indians finally got rid of the Congress party in 1998 and ushered in the Hindu nationalist BJP party. They said they would clean up Indian politics because they loved their country so much…. lo and behold they started also dipping into the coffers.

    Hamas could grow some balls and follow the will of the Palestinians by negotiating for peace and recognising Israel too.. thats’ the minimum to ask for a start.

  4. Bilal Mcdaniel — on 2nd March, 2006 at 2:58 am  

    I cant stand the Jooo-owned, Bu$Hitler-worshiping MSM who always refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization. These Muslim freedom fighters blowing themselves up in the middle of Jewish pizzareias and bar mitvahs are merely exercising religious freedom. Who are we to deny people belonging to the religion of peace the right to religiously express themselves in this way?

    As for Sharon, he was just one more in a long line of modern joo-boy hucksters, starting with Begin who absolutely conned Anwar “I Love a Parade” Sadat.
    Fast forward to the Oslo Accords where the world finally learned and recognized that the true peace maker was Arafat, a remarkable progressive who disproved the notion that Islam cannot and will not tolerate alternate lifestyles.

    Finally, Barak offered in 2000 to give the Palestinians the entire state of Israel and to murder every first born male joo. The Palestinians once and for all proved Islamic intellectual/moral supremacy by rejecting the Barak offer and beginning the next Intifada.
    The problem is obvious… and so is the solution. Saint Rachel proved that.

    Did I say joo boy huckster? I meant Zionist huckster.

    I wouldn’t be suprised if one of KKKarl Rove’s Reich-Wing KKKonservative KKKhristian DoKKKtors of the KKKulture of KKKorruption found a way to implant us progressives with a microscopic GPS chips that allows SCOTUS-Selected ChimpFace Smirky Dumbya Bu$Hitler and DicKKK Cheney to command HitlerBurton to track you day & night

  5. soru — on 2nd March, 2006 at 11:56 am  

    Over at Crooked Timber they have a post questioning the idea that if something is funny it must be true.


    I think probably a better rule of thumb is if something is unfunny, it’s very likely not based on too much truth.


  6. Sunny — on 2nd March, 2006 at 2:16 pm  

    Heh, Bilal’s post is hilarious.

  7. Arif — on 5th March, 2006 at 8:28 pm  

    There are lots of legalese arguments made at one level of discussion on who should negotiate with whom and on what grounds etc, which reminds me of theological discussion.

    There are lots of simpler arguments made on another level with one side representing the Real Evil and the other only evil as an incidental consequence of having to deal with the Real Evil.

    And there is a temptation to get depressed by the whole lot which ends in a “they are all as bad as each other, I can’t spend all my time chatting to self-righteous bigots, whats on the other channel?”

    Getting back in touch with our own humanity, I think we have to forget concessions or principles and just talk to get to know one another. Just make a promise not to get angry and depressed for a while and see if it helps things. I don’t particularly mean Hamas or Abbas and Kadima or Likud. I mean that people have to make principled cross-national organisations to create principles for living together, and just forget about the politicians who are winding one another up.

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