My mood today about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is best illustrated by Jesse Jackson’s chant at the 1984 Democratic National Convention: “Keep hope alive.” Or I should say: hope IS alive. My mood shifts day to day depending on what atrocity or hopeful event happens. And today there’s hope:
Haaretz reports that Hamas’ senior leader in Nablus said: “The charter is not the Koran…The idea of negotiating is not something problematic and is not a dogma [to refuse]…Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we’re talking now about reality, about political solutions. … The realities are different.” It should also be noted that this official expressed “a strong belief” that Israel would never accept his conditions for such a reform of Hamas’ doctrine; those conditions being a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and acceptance of a Palestinian Right of Return.
And further, it should be noted that most of these demands are still dealbreakers for the average Israeli–especially the Right of Return and withdrawal from the West Bank (if, by this, the Hamas representative meant a full withdrawal from every settlement).
As with any hopeful sign involving the Mideast, one shouldn’t become too hopeful. There are plenty of other Hamas officials who hold fast to the old hardline about all of the land of Israel belonging to Palestinians–what is best described as the “eternal No.” But the main lesson to be learned is that there is glacial movement within Hamas toward a less militant (i.e. ideological) and more political (i.e.. practical) approach to the conflict.
Ariel Sharon should realize that every time he bellows bellicosely about how he will prevent upcoming Palestinian elections from happening should Hamas participate that such threats actually send Palestinian votes Hamas’ way. If he shut up, things might go his way without the shouting and Hamas might not poll the numbers he fears it will. Robert Rosenberg at ariga.com yesterday noted that the latest Shikaki poll (the most prominent Palestinian pollster) gives Hamas only 30% of the vote if the elections were held today. But should Sharon keep posturing for internal Likud consumption as he did when he made the above comment–then who knows–the skies the limit for Hamas.
Robert notes in today’s column that the upcoming Likud leadership vote is between Sharon and Netanyahu is extremely close:
Sample polling of the 3,050 members of the central committee show a neck and neck race between Sharon and Netanyahu.
Actually, an Israeli poll published in Haaretz said that Sharon was slightly behind in the voting 40% to 45% for Netanyahu with the momentum shifting slightly in the latter’s favor.
Thomas Friedman begins today’s New York Times column by declaring his preference for Likud leader: Bibi Netanyahu. Which at first seems a puzzler for the generally centrist Friedman. Until you realize there’s a method to his apparent madness. Friedman advocates one of the current favorite intrigues of the Israel’s “chattering classes:” Sharon loses the Central Committee vote, walks out of Likud taking his Likud MP supporters with him, starts a new centrist party which–in alignment with the centrist elements of Labor–form a solid governing majority (or close to it) in the next Knesset. Nice try Tom. And it might happen. But I still find it hard to believe that the Central Committee voters would deliberately send their party into the ultimate nosedive toward oblivion by turning out its enormously successful, popular and charismatic (much as I disagree with most of what he stands for) leader. Perhaps I’m wrong, as I’ve learned you should never underestimate the ability of Mideast players to astonish you with their self-destructive behaviors.