With Israeli voters about to go to the polls in one of the least compelling (though not because the issues are unimportant) elections in recent memory, Hamas has marked a revolutionary change by not punctuating the voting with suicide bombings. Such a fate is what torpedoed Shimon Peres’ best opportunity to become prime minister just after Rabin’s assassination. The firebrands within Hamas decided that Labor was as much an enemy as Likud and provided this analysis through a suicide bomber’s explosive belt. With this election, Haaretz reports that Ismail Haniye has represented Hamas’ newfound moderation with an interview in which he asserted that his party does not want confrontation with Israel:
“Hamas’ presence in the regime [the new Palestinian government] is the beginning to solving the crisis – if the Israelis want this to happen,” he said.
“We don’t seek a bloodbath in this region,” Haniyeh said. “We want rights and dignity for the Palestinian people, and to put an end to this decades-long complicated situation.”
Haniyeh said the intention of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Kadima Party to carry out unilateral withdrawals from parts of the West Bank is unacceptable.
“We will obviously not prevent Israel from withdrawing, but this doesn’t mean that we consider the borders they set to be those of the Palestinian state.”
Asked if Hamas would hold talks with Israel, Haniyeh said…:
“The problem is with Olmert, with Kadima. He said he would not have any contacts with the Palestinian government.
He announced a position. The problem is not with us,” Haniyeh said.
In a speech before the Palestinian cabinet, Reuters reports that Haniyeh reached out his hand to the Quartet nations saying Hamas was ready to negotiate with them for a just peace:
“Our government will be ready for a dialogue with the Quartet … to look into all ways to end the status of struggle and to achieve calm in the region,” said Haniyeh, who will take over a Palestinian Authority on the brink of financial collapse.
“Our people are in need more than any other nation on earth for peace, for security and stability. Our government will not spare any effort to achieve a just peace in the region.”
Of course, Haniyeh’s statement that “‘We have never been seekers of war. We have never been callers for terrorism and bloodshed” is belied by the party’s bloody history of suicide bombings. But what I and most Israelis are interested in is what Hamas plans to do from here on out. If they can keep the peace, then they should become a suitable partner for negotiations with Israel. Whether Ehud Olmert and the new Israeli government recognize a partner when they see one is another story. This is why it’s important to have outside parties like the Quartet and EU monitoring the situation and giving both sides feedback and positive reinforcement when it is warranted.