American foreign policy Americans for Peace Now Gaza Strip Hamas Israel Palestinians

Americans for Peace Now breaks ranks again, thoughtfully

Americans for Peace Now has not gotten much attention for its recent, carefully reasoned call for a smarter U.S. policy towards Hamas.

While condemning Hamas for “heinous attacks on civilians” and for denying Israel’s right to exist, it states a fact that is willfully denied by those who want to keep punishing and pummelling the Gaza Strip until somehow, magically, Hamas just loses support and fades away:

In the wake of the Gaza War, with Hamas still representing the only governing force in Gaza, continuing to politically isolate Hamas and push it further away from the political process only guarantees Hamas’ role as a spoiler and increases the chances that the political process will fail, rather than bolstering the political process and those who take part in it.

Therefore, APN argues:

The only option is for the U.S. to support “Fatah-and Hamas-power sharing…in the form of a national unity government or a non-partisan technocrat government that includes Fatah, Hamas, and independent Palestinian political figures with credibility among Palestinians…

…Today, APN calls on the Obama Administration to make the formation of such a government an explicit U.S. goal, and to make clear that relations with such a government – including U.S. assistance and U.S. political engagement – will be determined based on the positions and actions of that government and the national security interests of the U.S., not on the basis of whether Hamas is included in it.

Such a government – one that is seen as representing all Palestinians – would have both the legitimacy and capacity to enforce its will in terms of security and governance. Such a government is vital to sustain the current fragile Gaza ceasefire and to provide a Palestinian counterpart capable of holding up its side of security arrangements. Such a government is also crucial to the stabilization of the current situation in the Gaza Strip, the rebuilding of Gaza, and to the achievement and implementation of any future peace agreement.

The opportunity to be included in such a government might provide a powerful incentive for Hamas to moderate its rhetoric and behavior, and potentially adopt more pragmatic positions toward Israel. Conversely, a Hamas decision to reject or torpedo such an opportunity – depriving the Palestinian people of the benefits of U.S. engagement and assistance – would likely have serious consequences on the group’s legitimacy in the eyes of all Palestinians.

A U.S. policy of engaging a government that includes objectionable political parties would find precedents in Lebanon, where the U.S. has for years maintained good relations with that country’s government despite the presence of Hezbollah in its ranks, and in Jordan, where the Muslim Brotherhood has for years been steadily making gains in the parliament, with no impact on U.S. relations.

There is more to it. Before anyone takes exception to it, or expounds upon it, I urge them to read it, and think about it. The APN brain trust –including Debra DeLee, Lara Friedman, Mark Rosenblum, Ori Nir and Noam Shalef– does not get the credit it deserves for the organization’s nuanced policy statements. These statements can’t be lengthy essays that belong in Foreign Affairs; they have to be short enough to be digestible by those who are not policy wonks –e.g, Members of Congress.

Finally, APN does not get the credit it deserves from the left when it cooly and calmly breaks ranks with almost every other American Jewish organization. There is no other group in the main umbrella body of the American Jewish community –the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations– that has recognized the need for the U.S. to be realistic, and to encourage a Palestinian unity government because every other alternative is much, much worse.

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