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Washington Post’s Israel Correspondent Sees ‘New Hamas Pragmatism’ in Light of Arab Spring

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  • Carl December 22, 2011, 2:18 AM

    Joel Greenberg has been doing good reporting.

  • Bob Mann December 22, 2011, 10:09 AM

    What is the basis for your claim that the prisoner exchange is seen as a success inside Gaza and beyond?

    Certainly Palestinian public opinion on this front is not based on Israeli and US media?

    So what is your source here?

    I ask because a survey I read showed that the opinion of Hamas either went down or remained unchanged as a result of the exchange by the majority of Palestinians.

    Also, surveys indicate that Fatah is more popular than Hamas both in West Bank and Gaza – and Hamas would be left out in the cold were an election allowed to occur.

    In the West Bank, Abbas would beat Haniyeh 56 – 33, while in Gaza Abbas would beat Haniyeh 54-42.

    The rejection of Hamas by the majority of Palestinians is a positive development in my view. Do you disagree?

    • Mary Hughes-Thompson December 22, 2011, 6:57 PM

      Sort of like in the U.S. Sometimes the Democrats are more popular while other times the Republicans are more popular. That seems to be the way it is with political parties such as Fatah and Hamas, pretty much the way it is in Israel too.

    • Richard Silverstein December 22, 2011, 8:16 PM

      I’m not arguing whether I support Hamas or even whether Palestinians should. That’s their own choice. But clearly Hamas represents a sizable portion of Palestinian public opinion and as long as it does, what Hamas believes is important to acknowledge. Similarly, it’s critical for Israel and the U.S. to do so as well. And as long as both have their heads in the sand on this issue, there won’t be serious progress.

      It’s clear that Palestinian opinion unanimously supports freeing of Palestinian prisoners and whoever succeeds at doing so will secure great credit. Hamas may fall below Fatah’s support in polls currently, but I pretty much won’t trust such polls till there’s a real election to test it. Frankly, I don’t like either one, but for different reasons. But it’s not my election & not my choice.

      • Bob Mann December 22, 2011, 8:48 PM

        I agree with just about everything you’ve written here.

        I do believe, however, that there is nothing wrong with an outsider having a “rooting interest” so to speak with respect to the outcome of whatever future Palestinian elections may take place.

        Many around the world who were not Americans were very much hoping, for instance, for Obama to win the last US presidential election and were not at all pleased with Bush’s earlier victories, such as they were.

        You yourself have expressed great dismay with the results of the last Israeli elections. You certainly didn’t simply say “it’s not my election & not my choice” with respect to the victory of Netanyahu and his coalition, even though you are not Israeli.

        Wouldn’t you have similar concerns with the results of elections on the Palestinian side – of a coalition possibly taking power promoting values that you may find repugnant, as you do with the values of the current Israeli leadership?

        • Richard Silverstein December 23, 2011, 12:21 PM

          But I am Jewish and a Zionist and so feel a much stronger sense of engagement in the Israeli political process. But I no longer believe it makes much difference who wins the next Israeli election.

          And as a non Arab & non Palestinian Palestinian elections are not ones where I feel comfortable interceding in a similar way.

  • delia ruhe December 22, 2011, 2:11 PM

    The WaPo may be part of the collapsing consensus:

    http://www.salon.com/writer/jordan_michael_smith/

  • Michael Shepard December 22, 2011, 3:34 PM

    Don’t make it seem that Hamas is from Mars or something. Don’t make this into an either/or, choose this=reject that story.

    Hamas and Fatah ‘seem’ to have come to an understanding; that is about the Palestinians. It is not about Arab spring or about what the Muslim Brotherhood did/does. It should have happened a long time ago and there is responsibility (or blame) enough to go around. Hamas was/is a legitimate elected representative of a significant portion of the Palestinian population. And Hamas never had any opportunity to show how it would govern under anything that resembled normal circumstances. So, it was not crazy – or rejectionist for not wanting to give away the store to the side that lost the last round of elections.

    It is particularly American to approach all Arab groups and Muslim groups and look for the good guy and the bad guy — in this case, Fatah is the good guy? Because …. they what, went to the UN and asked for a country? How did that make them the good guys in the eyes of the Americans? Oh because Hamas uses violence MORE these days than does Fatah? That puts Fatah on the right side of Arab spring and Hamas on the wrong side? These binary oppositions don’t capture the full complexity of the situation.

    Fatah has been on the payroll of the west since 1994, and in that time, has tended to be more cooperative with American interests. But Arafat was held personally responsible for stages of the Second Intifada and the Israelis bulldozed up to his door in Ramallah. So today’s good guy was yesterday’s bad guy.

    The consensus of the Palestinians can’t be judged based on opinion polls, whatever people claim reflects their feelings TODAY. That is what we have elections for.

    ‘New pragmaticism’ … maybe. Both sides in Palestine have been trying to form a unity government since 2006 and a variety of forces have interfered — particularly outside forces. Israel does not want any new pragmatism from Hamas. So where does that put the Israelis in the scheme of the Arab spring?

    When any Arab group or individual or any Muslim does something that is praised by somebody from the west, I always assume that this group or person just got suckered (think of the west’s hero, Anwar Sadat). Because why would anyone in the west want an Arab or a Muslim to actually stand up for his own rights in his own part of the world?

  • Aonee December 22, 2011, 3:51 PM

    Bargaining 1500 palestinian prisoners for 1 israeli soldier. How can anyone miss the winner in this exchange. It has been categorically proved that israel values its subjects more than Hamas(or Fatah) do.

    Action speaks much louder than words and deep down even palestinians must have taken note of it.

    • Richard Silverstein December 22, 2011, 8:01 PM

      This is utter racist horse manure. And if you repeat such disgusting notions here again you’ll be moderated. I will not allow you or anyone else proclaim that Israelis value life more than Palestinians or others to claim that Palestinians value life more than Israelis. You may of course claim that one side doesn’t value life without comparing it to the other side, but only if you offer credible evidence to support the claim.

    • sleeper December 22, 2011, 10:42 PM

      It’s not about value – it is about respective power of Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has around 11,000 Palestinian prisoners – so putting it another way, Israel has had 100% of its prisoners returned whereas Palestine has only achieved less than 15%. Moreover almost 500 Palestinians have been arrested by Israel since the initial release – at least according to this:

      http://alethonews.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/palestine-wave-of-arrests-since-first-phase-of-prisoner-exchange/

      And Israel only values its subjects (which as of today apparently includes the West Bank and Gaza since these are “domestic affairs” of Israel according to a Foreign Ministry announcement) if they are Jews. Now that is racism!

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/22/world/middleeast/israel-says-4-european-countries-are-meddling-in-its-affairs.html

    • Elisabeth December 23, 2011, 12:14 PM

      I agree with Sleeper: 1500 against 1 quite correctly expresses the unequal balance of power. And nothing more. Having the upper hand and then ridiculing and demeaning your weaker opponent: Disgusting Aonee.

  • Joel December 23, 2011, 5:55 AM

    But for the ‘Arab Spring’, Hamas would not be moderating her stance towards Israel. Got it.