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.

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