Hamas never seems to miss an opportunity to confuse its own followers and the world with its hopelessly fragmented vision of the mandate of the upcoming national unity government. It seems clear to all, except the Hamas Syrian revanchist crowd, that the entire purpose of the national unity government is to give cover to Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, while at the same time allowing the world to hear the magic words it needs in order to break the Palestinian strangulation. The national unity government will either speak the golden words of recognition directly or will empower Mahmoud Abbas to do so for it. Either way, there are many signs to indicate that both the EU and possibly even the U.S. will then end the suffocating boycott.
But Hamas has managed to say directly contradictory things on this subject on the very same day. In the Jerusalem Post, Hamas leaders are quoted as saying that the new government will absolutely not have the right to recognize Israel:
In a move that could jeopardize efforts to establish a Palestinian unity government, Hamas announced on Tuesday that the new government will not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
One of the things I find maddening about rags like the Jerusalem Post is that they do not quote from or specify what “announcement” they’re referring to. Who in Hamas said this and what did they say? You’ll never know. That’s “journalism” JPost style!
But admittedly the article does expand on its original claim:
At least three Hamas representatives have gone on the record over the past 48 hours to stress that the proposed unity government’s political platform does not recognize Israel’s right to exist – one of three conditions set by the Quartet for ending financial sanctions imposed on the Palestinians since Hamas came to power.
The three, Syria-based Musa Abu Marzouk, Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad and Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, strongly denied reports in the Arab media according to which the unity government would recognize Israel.
“We reject the two-state vision of [US President George W.] Bush,” Barhoum said. “This would mean recognition of Israel and we are not going to recognize Israel. We have said in very clear terms that Hamas will not participate in a government that recognizes Israel. This position is not going to change. We will not recognize the two-state solution and Israel.”
Hamad, for his part, said no one asked Hamas to recognize Israel during the negotiations over the formation of a unity government.
“Even the Palestinian president [Abbas] did not make such a demand,” he said. “The unity government’s political platform will be based on the national reconciliation document [that was drafted earlier this year by leading Palestinian prisoners and that does not explicitly recognize Israel].”
Note that the JPost reporter states that Abu Marzook allegedly rejected the unity government’s recognition of Israel, but unlike the other two sources he does not quote Abu Marzook.
Which is all very interesting because now things get curiouser and curiouser. Attempt to parse this from AP News:
Hamas said Tuesday it would not recognize Israel even after a new national unity government takes power, but suggested that the emerging coalition would be free to stake out a more moderate position.
Hamas apparently hopes this ambiguity will allow it to preserve its anti-Israel ideology but open the door to an easing of crippling international sanctions, imposed to pressure the current, Hamas-led government to moderate. Despite the sanctions, Hamas has repeatedly rejected international demands to recognize Israel, renounce violence and respect past peace accords.
Seeking a way out of the deadlock, Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement have been in talks to form a coalition government comprised of politically independent experts appointed by the two rival parties, officials said.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top official in Hamas’ exiled leadership in Syria, called the international demands to recognize Israel “illegal and illegitimate.” But he suggested Hamas would not set the tone for the next government’s policies on Israel.
“It’s not Hamas that will pronounce on this subject,” he said in a telephone interview from Syria.
While I never trust anything from the Jerusalem Post unless I can verify it from another source, one has to acknowledge that Hamas has left itself open for the interpretation drawn in the above article. I’m hoping that Abu Marzook’s actual quoted statement from the AP will be operative when Hamas and Fatah finally agree on their new government and its political agenda. The Palestinians and the world need this agreement very badly to avert far worse bloodshed.
If this happens, then Olmert’s policy of smothering the PA will no longer be effective. Pressure will increase dramatically on him to negotiate with a degree of seriousness he’s shown himself incapable of in the past. What will happen at that point is anyone’s guess. Both Olmert and Sharon before him staked their entire political agenda on staving off precisely this result at all costs. What will he do when it stares him in the face? Will he react like the pragmatic politician he’s sometimes (though rarely) shown himself to be? Or will he revert to a far more comfortable form of rejectionism and obfuscation? To my regret, I’m betting on the latter outcome.
Which then puts the ball in the EU/U.S. court. What will they do to compel Israel to do something it refuses to do itself? I certainly do not believe that George Bush or even Condi Rice have the will to move the mountain that Israel will be in that case. But I wonder whether James Baker and Robert Gates can put enough spine into him to make something happen?