In the N.Y. Times, distinguished Australian journalist Paul McGeough writes of a recent interview with Hamas’ Khaled Meshal. There is some interesting new mood music coming out of Damascus from the Hamas Diaspora leadership:
Pressed on policy changes that Hamas might make as a gesture to any new order, Mr. Mishal argued that the organization has already shifted on several key points: “Hamas has already changed — we accepted the national accords for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, and we took part in the 2006 Palestinian elections.”
The reporter follows up with his own interesting portrayal of Meshal’s views comparing them with those of Bibi Netanyahu:
Over the long term, Hamas accepts the concept of two states in the Levant, which arguably puts Mr. Mishal’s terrorist movement closer to Washington than Netanyahu is — he now proposes only “economic peace” between Jews and Palestinians.
I think perhaps McGeough is a bit too kind to Meshal. Saying that he accepts a two-state solution in the long term can mean everything or nothing. But I do agree with him that Hamas is closer to accepting a two-state solution than it has ever been and that Meshal’s statement above is tacit acceptance of this position.
Beyond this, it is very suggestive to compare the relative acceptance of this position by the leaders of Hamas and of Israel. Even if one wishes to argue that Hamas does not accept Israel’s existence and never will–Israel’s new leadership is much closer to this view of Palestinian statehood than almost any previous leadership going back perhaps to Menachem Begin. In other words, if you think ill of Hamas you must also concede that Netanyahu’s rejectionist views are much closer to those of Hamas than Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni or even Ariel Sharon.
Unfortunately, Meshal rebuffs McGeough when he asks whether the Charter will be rewritten. The latter reminds his readers that this is not a diplomat or leader seeking to curry favor in the west, but rather a hardened leader skilled in the ways of political combat and resistance. In other words, he’s not eager to be at anyone’s beck and call merely to make a favorable impression in the west.
Another part of the mood music that McGeough picks up is the streams of politically-connected international visitors beating a path to Meshal’s door. This too is an indication that the ice is slowly melting and while Hamas isn’t exactly being welcomed with open arms by the world community, it is finding a more receptive audience than it ever has before. All this, provides opportunities (and possible pitfalls) for would-be peacemakers like Barack Obama.
I hope that Ethan Bronner reads this column before he next writes the word ‘Hamas’ in one of his reports, which he inevitably follows with the qualifier, “which advocates the destruction of Israel.” This is a simplistic and dismissive assessment which isn’t worthy of the pages of a serious newspaper.