Jewish Week writes that Henry Siegman, prominent Mideast analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, is consulting with Hamas moderates who “do not preclude at all a recognition of the State of Israel despite the charter.” Back in 1999, Siegman helped draft a report advising ways to reform the PA to make it more transparent, efficient and above-board:
Siegman, who was approached by Palestinian leaders in 1999 for advice as they assembled their government, put together a task force at the time that came up with a blueprint for honest and transparent institution-building.
“We had a tough fight to get Arafat to pay attention to the reforms,” he said. “The reforms of the finance ministry were those we advocated. But it was like water dripping on a rock. They didn’t go nearly far enough.”
…He said a “team of experts” is now working to summarize the successes and failures of the PA since 1999 and to “formulate priorities that the [new] Palestinian Authority legislature should pursue.”
“When we submit that report to them, we’ll see their reactions and then determine to what extent we can work with them to see that the recommendations are implemented,” Siegman said.
…The report now being prepared, Siegman said, calls for greater transparency and accountability among the security forces and an end to corruption by security chiefs who shakedown those they are supposed to protect. And he said it calls for “independence and professionalism” in the judiciary, and for effectiveness and professionalism among civil servants.
I applaud Siegman’s attempt to build bridges between American Jews and Hamas. There is already so much mistrust between Israel and Hamas that efforts such as Siegman’s may yield dividends down the road if Hamas’ leadership does decide to moderate its positions vis a vis Israel. He could help broker such change if he’s seen as an honest intermediary.
Given the knee-jerk defend-Israel-at-all-costs position of much of the American Jewish leadership, it isn’t surprising that the tone of the Jewish Week article and of those quoted in the article is dubious at best. Thank God, no one called him a traitor to his race (though many must be thinking that). I’m sure if they asked the inimitable Mort Klein, he’d have gotten off a zinger or two. And Malcolm Hoenlein was at his most uncharacteristically diplomatic when he said:
“What Hamas has to do first is renounce its covenant [calling for Israel’s destruction], give up terrorism and adhere to the rules of law,” he said. “We are dealing with a terrorist organization that threatens Israel and Egypt. … To think that somehow you are going to adopt cosmetics and that this will change them — it will not.”
I think the fact that the community has not circled the wagons to denounce Siegman in a full-throated chorus indicates a good deal of confusion on Israel’s part about what approach to take toward Hamas. Yes, Olmert and his government have made implacable statements about no negotiations with a Hamas that embraces terror and they’ve said they will withhold Palestinian tax reimbursements (contrary to international agreement). But perhaps there is a realization on Israel’s part that Hamas might actually, if it did moderate its positions, be a better and more reliable partner for peace than the vacillating, seemingly powerless Fatah was. I don’t want to put words or thoughts in Olmert’s mouth or brain. But I’m surmising a certain level of uncertainty in Israel’s pronouncements about Hamas.
I wish Siegman success.