Hamas Israel Middle East peace process Palestinians

Political horizons and the challenge of Hamas

Various peace plans or proposals are floating around out there, and some of them have found there way to this blog. Peter H points to the idea of a 5-year “hudna,” which, he says, would provide Hamas with “greater freedom & space to explore ways of resolving the conflict with Israel in a lasting way.” The details of the proposal are here. Apparently some Hamas and Israeli “leaders” agreed to these ideas, although none of them will admit to it now.

It is hard to imagine that Israel will give Hamas freedom and space to do anything, at least in the foreseeable future.

Too many people on the non-Zionist or anti-Zionist left tend to passively accept Hamas as the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people. I can accept that they have been elected. But to pretend that their election was not a disaster for everyone who wants an end to bloodshed and the occupation is the height of dreamy naivete. This passive acceptance is odd. It appears to be based on a tortuous logic that goes something like: “I have to convince myself that the enemy of the person I have convinced myself is my enemy is my friend.”

Anyone who wants to change the status quo and end the unrelenting suffering should stop being cautious about making judgments about Hamas. They should accept the fact that diminishing Hamas’ popularity and grassroots support in the territories is not just a worthy goal; right now, it is just about the ONLY goal.

Fortunately, it is possible to envision a diplomatic process that can make major dents in Hamas’ popularity. Ephraim Sneh, the current Deputy Defense Minister, says that to win the battle against Hamas, “Israel must not only engage in preemptive strikes; it must also launch a political initiative.” On May 16th, he told a meeting of Ameinu:

In July 2005, I drafted a platform for final status negotiations with a senior representative of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas; I know that all the gaps can be bridged..For the sake of the country, Prime Minister Olmert should commence negotiations with President Abbas now….

…The way to bolster the moderates is for both sides to open negotiations on a final status agreement, in the first phase on basic principles, thereby creating a genuine political horizon. This step is crucial both for Palestinians and Israelis who harbor skepticism about the possibility of peace. It would strike a blow against Hamas which thrives on despair bred by the belief that there is no diplomatic way to realize a Palestinian state. Once it is clear to all that an agreement can be reached, it will build great support for the moderates in both societies…

…Among both Palestinians and Israelis, roughly a third will never accept a peace agreement…Both the Israeli right wing and the Palestinian Hamas will never accept a two-state solution. Israel and its supporters should abandon the illusion that Hamas might change its spots. Instead, Israel and its allies must strengthen the two-thirds who form the moderates in Palestinian society—those who are truly principled moderates as well as the pragmatists who understand that the only way is to reach an accommodation with Israel.

The full interview with Sneh can be found on the Ameinu web site.

This is no softhearted, naive idealist. This is one tough dove. If he says “all the gaps can be bridged,” I trust him more than those who throw up their hands in despair and say there is no hope.

Happy Memorial Day weekend to one and all.

14 thoughts on “Political horizons and the challenge of Hamas

  1. Dear Dan,

    Appreciate the article. We are kinda in the same bus. I work on educating American Jews and non-Jews alike. We may have to wait for a new Pres. to generate the kind of peace offensive necessary to move the two parties to a two state solution. While I’m not a great fan of H. Clintin maybe she can let Bill loose to do the international dancing necessary to align all the stars and push the principals to an agreement on peace with security. Did a article recently for OpEdNews, “Is Peace Possible in Hebron?”, you are welcome to have a look at http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_larry_sn_070504_is_peace_possible_in.htm

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Larry Snider

  2. Who knows what Hamas is, or would do?

    I can’t tell if they are mostly Palestinian in orientation or mostly Islamicist.

    I can’t tell if they have “integrity” or if they are merely opportunistic thugs. I can’t tell if they would line their pockets, do horrible things for prestige (they do that), would betray every virtue (loyalty and/or justice).

    I can’t tell if they would ever regard Jews as human, assembly of Jews as just, Jews as peers.

    I can’t tell if they would ever regard the US as valid, the UN.

    I can’t tell if they are disciplined and subject to the deliberation of leadership or utterly undisciplined.

  3. I admire the honesty of this post, Dan. You are walking a difficult path here, aren’t you? I bet the left will call you a racist because you want nothing to do with Hamas. and the right will call you a traitor, and, let’s face it, most people in the center won’t bother to read your blog :). But your path is the only one that makes at least a little sense.

    Someone please tell me the difference between “anti-Zionists” and “non-Zionists.” Seriously, I want to know, as I’ve only recently heard the latter term. Are they people like Jewish Voices for Peace who won’t take a stand on whether or not there should be a two-state solution but still pretend they are not biased against Israel and the Jewish state?

  4. Dan,

    Thanks for responding to my comment. I’ll respond to your piece later, but, just so you know, that wording about a hudna giving Hamas “greater freedom & space” came from the proposal itself. It wasn’t my wording.

  5. There are religious that are “anti-Zionist” in that they regard the state Israel as a sin, a diversion, an action INSTEAD of “keeping my commandments”. The rationalizing attitudes of the neo-orthodox settler movement illustrate that. Consider that there is a sabbatical year coming up, and orthodox rabbis have determined that all land should lie fallow, a sabbath for a full year. The neo-orthodox are proposing that they sell the land to secular or Arab and still work the land, so that no “Jew” would have violated the sabbatical year. A bit of a rationalization (fabrication more than rationalization).

    The Satmar and Neturai Karta are genuinely anti-Zionist. More than even a distraction from “keeping my commandments”, they regard the state as a form of idolatry.

    In contrast, most of the ultra-orthodox are “non-Zionist”. They think that the state is useful for the protection that states give, the military protection of Jewish communities that would otherwise be in danger. But, they DON’T consider the state to be an example of the promised time of return, also largely because the prerequisite events of “keeping my commandments” have not occurred. In that regard, the promised time is attempted to be forced, neither earned, nor graced.

    Politically, there are those (using the left as an example) that are indifferent to their being a state of Israel. They may be Zionist socially, as in asserting the right of Jews to reside in the land. There are others that are “non-Zionist” for emphasis on democracy, as in one-person one-vote and from a state of genuine peer status.

    Others actively oppose Zionism (“anti-Zionist”), describing it as an obstacle or contradiction with democracy.

    I’m 2/3 of the way between Zionism requiring a state, and non-Zionist (emphasizing the right and importance of safe Jewish community).

    I don’t regard the state as a part of the messianic process (as many of the neo-orthodox do), primarily as a distraction.

    On the other hand, I am obviously not orthodox, as I’m typing this on Shabbat, but am observant in that I do practise the ten commandments and elaborations to best of my understanding of their spirit. If the health of the world depended on the vigilance of my practise, the world would get sick pretty quick.

    On the other hand, I do sincerely apply the instructions to “love thy neighbor as thyself”, to the extent that I’m able and doing so by:

    Loving reality (not an idol)
    Loving God (present)
    Not stealing
    Not committing adultery
    Not killing
    Not coveting my neighbor’s possession
    Honoring my parents
    Resting and enjoying on shabbat
    Not demeaning others, inevitably ignorantly (judgement is the Lord’s)
    Not taking reality trivially (“not taking the Lord’s name/expression in vain”)

  6. My understanding is that non-zionists are those who have no opinion and no stake in the matter. Sort of the same being as a non-Jew or a non-zenist or a non-greek.

    But an anti-zionist would be an individual who opposed zionism. However, as there is no clear definition of zionism, other then the hopes of the Jews to return to their homeland, the ‘anti’ side is a confusing lot.

    Let us start with a given. All Jews who identify themselves as Jews in a religious context are, by definition, classic zionists. Even those strange jewish cults who believe Jews may not rule there are still classic zionists.

  7. IbrahamAv,
    You’re wrong. Classical Zionism was a non-religious phenomenon by Jews in Eastern Europe who were tired of waiting for the Mashiach to come and improve their lot. They were nationalist Jews who thought of Jewishness in an ethnic sense rather than Judaism. Most Orthodox up until the founding of Israel in 1948 were anti-Zionist or, at best, non-Zionist. The original Rav Kook represented a small minority of religious Jews within mandatory Palestine. Most Zionist within Palestine were not religious, and most religious Jews within Palestine were not Zionist. This has only gradually begun to change since 1948 because of Israel’s educational system and the rise of religious Zionism since 1967.

  8. Chana,

    I have often wondered the same thing. I think that these days, “non-Zionist,” has become a kind of catch-all description for those who understand that at least some of the reasons for establishing a Jewish state were not invalid or immoral, and have at least a little patience with the so-called “Zionist left” as long as it is harshly critical of the occupation, But they have no patience whatsover with Israel as a whole. They are unwilling to commit themselves to a 2-state solution or a 1-state solution and unwilling to endorse the right of the Jewish state to exist, So, in practical terms, the difference between an anti-Zionist and a non-Zionist is mostly a matter of rhetorical style.

  9. Tom, You are confusing Classical Zionism with political zionism.

    All Jews who identify themselves as Jews, religiously, are Classic Zionists.

    Political Zionism, a relatively new form of Zionism, is secular in nature. However, once Israel became a fact, the Orthodox quickly accepted the idea. Most Jews accept political zionism as well as the religious version. All Jews who identify themselves as Jews, religiously,
    accept the religious version.

  10. Ibraham Av,
    If you invent your own definitions like you invent your own nomme de plume, you are right. But since Zionism is a political doctrine we have to go back to the late 19th century when it first appeared in the writings of authors like Moses Hess, Theodor Herzl et al. and organizations like hovevei Zion. Or is this just the religous Zionists trying to rewrite history?

  11. Tom, you confuse religious doctrine with political doctrine. Don’t dilute your argument trying to change the terms. You can deny that Zionism permiates Judaic writing for over 1000 years, but then you’d only be fooling yourself.

    Political Zionism is just the more recent expressions of this religious goal.

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