Saturday, January 13

Is Hamas on the Verge of Recognizing Israel?

On Wednesday 11th January 2007, Reuters issued a report that Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader resident in Syria, recognizes Israel.  Naturally, this caused many raised eyebrows in Israel. The raised eyebrows are of total skepticism! Is this possible? If one were to examine the question and answer session held between Reuters and Khaled Meshal, it does not take much imagination to read that it is full of contradictions.

There are hints of a number of conditions before there is any form of recognition:
  1. Establishing a Palestinian state on the June 4 1967 borders, including (East) Jerusalem,

  2. The right of return of refugees from the 1948 war of Independence

  3. Israel must withdraw to the pre-June 1967 borders.

There is a grudging non-recognition of the “Israeli Entity”. The reason for this is the total absence of a Palestinian state. It is not clear, according to Meshal, whether the Palestinian State will replace Israel and this will result in Hamas recognizing Israel. This is absurd! The contradictions as far as recognition of Israel is concerned is so numerous in the Hamas approach, that it makes it impossible to come to any conclusion as to what the intentions of Hamas are apart from Israel’s total destruction.

According to Meshal, the issue of Israel’s existence and recognition only complicates the Palestinian struggle for independence and an end to the occupation. On the one hand Meshal states that Israel is a fact but the Palestinians are not required to recognize Israel. He states that not all international relations are based on recognition. What does this mean in practice? Does this mean that one can have international relations with a country that does not exist? Where is the logic?

When confronted with the question whether Hamas will formally recognize Israel, Khaled Meshall responds:

“We as Hamas and as Palestinians do not talk about recognizing Israel or accepting it as a reality. As a Palestinian today I speak of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state on 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or a state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land. This is reality but I don't deal with it from the point of view of recognizing or admitting it. It is a fact that was the result of historical factors”.

This is strange logic indeed! It is like admitting that a state does exist in reality but this does not mean that we must admit that it exists! Hamas is running away from reality and is fantasizing that the reality of Israel is a figment of the imagination. This is indeed a very dubious way of discarding the reality of Israel’s existence.

According to Zvi Barel of Haaretz 11/01/07, there is a basic shift in the Hamas position. Khaled Meshal's declaration outlines a Hamas road map toward recognition of Israel. According to this outline, Meshal recognizes that the State of Israel is a "fact," but this "fact" still requires formal recognition. It is not clear what this entails.In practice, Meshal is trying to create an equation in which sovereign states recognize one another; but, for this to occur, we must first wait for the establishment of the Palestinian state, so that a similar legal entity can recognize its neighboring state- Israel.

There is no mention of even recognizing Israel in the future or changing the Hamas Charter to come to terms with Israel. Khaled Meshal is not prepared to face the fact that Israel’s is an integral part of the Middle East and that if he does not face this fact, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state will just not be a possibility.

How can Hamas negotiate with Israel based on respecting Palestinian rights when Hamas is not even prepared to negotiate with Israel on anything? It is not enough to claim that Hamas has a mandate from the Palestinian People in an election that was held a year ago. Hamas’s record of accomplishment on Palestinian human rights is flawed. Apart from that, they have achieved nothing for the Palestinians whom they are supposed to represent. They talk about the armed struggle against the occupation. There is a civil war between the more pragmatic Fatah and Hamas.

Hamas leaders make statements about Israel giving them nothing and just taking. How can Israel give or take from the Palestinians when there is no recognition of Israel’s right to exist from the Hamas side? The murmurings of recognition of Israel from Khaled Meshal are nothing but a smokescreen and a tactic to delude the world that Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist in a very obtuse way. The Palestinians are in a very severe economic depression. They need foreign currency and investment urgently. If this does not arrive then the Palestinians will face even more severe economic hardships.

Even if Israel withdraws to the pre-June 1967 borders, and declares Jerusalem to be the capital of two states as well as agreeing to the right of return of refugees, it is unlikely that Hamas will recognize Israel’s right to exist.

The statements of Khaled Mashal are not convincing and there is caginess as far as recognition of Israel is concerned. This does not bode well for the future of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Unless Hamas changes its strategy and ceases to send out ambiguous mixed messages about recognizing Israel’s right to exist, it is obvious that Hamas has not changed. There is no doubt that if Hamas does become pragmatic and recognizes Israel’s right to exist, there will be a basis for negotiations towards an end to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian State alongside Israel.

Hamas does not serve the interests of the Palestinian People by its implacable and obstinate attitude. There is no unity in Palestinian ranks with Hamas and Fatah killing each other in street violence.

The Palestinian people must realize that Hamas is a plague on their society. They can only survive in a violent environment of killing and intrigue. Surely, Hamas is a cancer in Palestinian society which will achieve nothing for the benefit of the people they claim to represent.

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