Wednesday, May 25

Israel Should Negotiate with Hamas

There are signs that Hamas may be showing signs of pragmatism. They have received increased support in the Palestinian municipalities by the Palestinian electorate. Hamas terrorist tactics against Israel are not conducive to reconstruction of the Palestinian infrastructure damaged very severely by the intifada. There is a certain feeling of déjà vu when the same question arose before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. There was a debate as to whether Israel should negotiate with Arafat and the PLO. It was illegal to negotiate with them under the preceding Israeli governments at that time.

The same old question arises that one should negotiate with one's enemy in order to achieve peace. However, it is imperative that one's enemy shows the same desire to reach a peace agreement. If both these factors are lacking then negotiations will never begin.

It is true that Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist in theory. Their manifesto leaves one without a doubt about that. As in most cases, theory and pragmatism do not always go hand in hand. This was the case with the PLO prior to the Oslo Accords when their manifesto also included non-recognition of the "Zionist Entity." Even after negotiation, the PLO Manifesto towards non-recognition remained unchanged for a long time. There is no reason to believe that the situation between Hamas and Israel is any different. Both organizations had carried out numerous acts of terror against Israel.

However, if Hamas shows a desire to negotiate with Israel despite its attitude towards Israel, Israel must be prepared to negotiate. Hamas's attitude should not determine preliminary negotiations. However, for these negotiations to be successful there must be a cessation of violence by agreement on both sides.

There is so much confluence of interests between Israel and the Palestinians not only politically but also economically and socially; it seems that Hamas will be showing more signs of pragmatism as they gain more power in Palestinian street. There are no guarantees that this will occur. It is not disadvantageous for Israel to negotiate with Hamas if they (Hamas) so desire.

Israel may prefer to negotiate with Abu Mazen. However, if the Palestinians do not support Abu Mazen, Israel will have to reconcile herself with the fact that she will have no alternative, but to negotiate with the chosen Hamas leadership. One should not view this as an Israeli weakness, rather pragmatic strength. Egos of one side or the other should not be taken into consideration when negotiations begin. Both sides should have a common goal - PEACE AND SECURITY - for both sides.

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1 comment:

zac said...

Hamas will remain out of the fold while it supports terror and its manifesto states clearly, that they will never recognize Israel's right to exist. While it is true that the US, in their naivety towards their perception of the Middle East, are convinced that democracy in the Middle East will solve almost everything. They have tried some form of pseudo-democracy in Iraq after the invasion and it seems that they have failed miserably. The odds are that they will be in Iraq for a very long time.

There are no democratic Arab regimes in the Middle East. There are not much signs of Arab countries adopting a democratic form of government. There are signs that the US will try to ram democracy down the throats of the Palestinians and this will defeat their object if they were to succeed. The winds of change, because of US pressure in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, could result in weakening Abu Mazen's position and laying the door open for the election of Hamas by an overwhelming majority in Palestine. The Palestinians are tired of Fatah and its tradition of corruption and cronyism. The so-called free elections that have been postponed for the moment could result in Hamas getting more support from the Palestinian electorate. Eventually elections will be held and time is not playing in Abu Mazen's favor. Hamas stand a good chance of winning the elections. What will happen then? Will the US cancel democracy and force these elections to be considered null and void despite the fact that Hamas was democratically elected? What should Israel do? Will there be a total break down of communication between Israel and the newly elected government of Palestine with a Hamas majority?

It is doubtful whether the US, European Union, UN and even Israel will harden their attitude and refuse to negotiate with Hamas. What could happen under these conditions is that Hamas may become more violent and utilize terror in order to gain legitimacy. This scenario will not be an easy one to solve. It is unlikely that there would be an international boycott against the Hamas ruled Palestinian Authority. On the other hand, the Palestinians are weak economically and their infrastructure has to be rebuilt. They are in dire need of financial help, and in order to gain international aid, Hamas may show signs of pragmatism and shelve their anti-Israel manifesto. It is quite possible that an international conference under some umbrella of the Quartet will reconvene to bestow legitimacy on Hamas.