All I can say is–it’s about time. About time someone stood up and said this policy is stupid and not working and counter-productive. About time that we talked to Hamas. Former Mossad director Ephraim Levy has been saying it for a long time. Other former Israeli generals and leading academic analysts have been saying it. Even Israeli public opinion is in favor. Who’s against? The pols: Olmert and those farther to his right are opposed. And the Bushites and the remaining neo-cons are agin’ it.
But the problem with the policy is that like much of the Bush’s approach it’s based on a theory that just doesn’t hold up on closer examination. The three no’s (remember the Arab League’s three No’s?): no contact without Hamas recognition of Israel, renunciation of terror, & acceptance of previous agreements, are largely a smokescreen. Neither the U.S. nor Israel made such demands before negotiating with the PLO. Despite this the PLO DID eventually recognize Israel and renounce violence as part of a negotiation process…the same type of negotiation process that should happen with Hamas.
Before the carpers start carping, I need to make clear that Carter will doubtless go into this meeting with no illusions about who Khaled Meshal is and what he represents. Carter won’t be starry-eyed and unduly impressed with his interlocutor. Meshal represents a lot of what is bad about Hamas. But he also represents a powerful faction within the group and there is no possible way to effect any sort of agreement with Hamas in the long term without Meshal’s at least tacit agreement.
There are those in Israel and people like Dick Cheney who believe the only good Hamas is a dead one. They’re prepared for a fight to the death. But no matter how attractive such a prospect may be to some extremists it would be an abject failure should anyone try to implement it.
No matter how odious anyone may find Hamas, there simply is no alternative to dealing with them. So Democrats and the Israeli government can rail at him all they want. But Carter’s only doing what they should be doing themselves. What they will eventually be doing themselves despite all protestations to the contrary. For we will negotiate with Hamas (Israel is already doing it indirectly through Egyptian auspices). The question is not “if” but “when.”
Unfortunately, this Forward report is yet another example of the clueless approach the Jewish communal leadership is taking on this one:
Carter’s decision to meet with the leader of Hamas, which is listed by the State Department as a terrorist group, is yet another step in the former president’s shift away from the mainstream approach in Washington to Middle East peacemaking. It is also seen as distancing him even further from the Jewish and pro-Israel community in the United States…
What Guttman really meant was this is yet another step away from the AIPAC approach to Mideast peacemaking. It certainly isn’t a step away from a mainstream approach since as I already wrote, Israel is currently negotiating with Hamas. And Carter isn’t distancing himself from the Jewish community. He’s distancing himself from the nostrums of the Israel lobby organizations, the very ones whose ideas have fallen flat over many years in dealing with these peacemaking issues.
All I can say is “Go Jimmy. Give ’em hell (both Meshal AND the Israel lobby).”
The Forward also notes Israel’s typical cutting off its nose to spite its face in regards to its treatment of Carter. It refused him permission to meet Hamas’ more moderate Gaza leadership. Not to be outmanuvered, Carter one-upped the Israelis. He said if they won’t let me meet with Hamas in Gaza I’ll meet with Hamas leadership that Israel detests even more deeply–in Syria. Instead of playing games with Carter, the Israelis should’ve let him meet with Haniya and the other Gaza leaders. Now they have a real problem on their hands in trying to put back the genie into the bottle that Carter has opened.
I was tickled by this ludicrous statement from the State Department:
…The State Department had not commented on Carter’s reported plans to meet Meshaal, but did say that Carter was advised by administration official that meetings with Syrian officials in the past “had not produced positive results.”
And U.S. policy toward Hamas HAS “produced positive results??” What could be worse than our current bankrupt policy? A full-tilt regional war involving Hamas, Hezbollah, Israel, Iran, etc.? That’s still a possibility if we don’t do something better quickly.