A group of U.S. foreign affairs mandarins have urged President Obama to engage with Hamas in talks to bring them into the Palestinian political fold:
Nine former senior US officials and one current adviser are urging the Obama administration to talk with leaders of Hamas to determine whether the militant group can be persuaded to disarm and join a peaceful Palestinian government, a major departure from current US policy.
The bipartisan group, which includes economic recovery adviser Paul A. Volcker and former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, made the recommendation in a letter handed to Obama days before he took office…
The group is preparing…to release a report outlining a proposed US agenda for talks aimed at bringing all Palestinian factions into the Mid east peace process, according to Henry Siegman, the president of the US/Middle East Project, who brought the former officials together and said the White House promised the group an opportunity to make its case in person to Obama.
…Signatories included former House International Relations Committee chairman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat; former United Nations ambassador Thomas Pickering from the first Bush administration; former World Bank president James Wolfensohn; former US trade representative in the Ford administration Carla Hills; Theodore Sorensen, former special counsel to President John F. Kennedy; and former Republican senators Chuck Hagel and Nancy Kassebaum Baker.
This, in case any of you have forgotten, is why we elected this guy; and why he scares the living daylights out of the Israel lobby. Imagine a president willing to reopen the terribly sensitive and almost taboo subject of whether we should give Hamas the cold shoulder. Perhaps, just perhaps Obama is willing to question support of a policy to stifle Hamas and Gaza which has proven an abject failure. That takes guts and let me tell you he’s gonna need ’em to solve this sucker.
This is a perfect example of the type of self-defeating sentiment that got us into the fix we’ve been in for the past eight years:
Chuck Freilich, Israel’s former deputy national security adviser, said in a recent interview that talks with Hamas would be a waste of time. “I think they [the Obama administration] are going to find very quickly that the reason the Bush administration didn’t do anything for seven years was there wasn’t anything to do.”
God help us, this guy better be wrong or we’re in for a long, hard four years.
I find the thinking behind the letter to be quite compelling:
Siegman said the letter, which was handed to Obama by Volcker…said the administration should “at least explore the possibility” that Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian territory of Gaza after elections in 2006, might be willing to transition into a purely political party…
Thank heaven for realists and pragmatists.
Richard Witty says
“Might” is the relevant word.
It hasn’t yet.
gene schulman says
I agree, Richard,it would be a good thing for Obama to finally take some initiative to solve this problem. But I can’t imagine why Hamas would be willing to join Fatah and become a purely political movement. It would undermine their raison d’etre. Efforts would be better spent talking to the incoming Netanyahu government and try to convince them to end the siege against Gaza and remove the settlers from the West Bank. Until that is accomplished, Hamas has every reason to continue their fight. Until that is accomplished, there is no hope for a two-state solution. If there is no two-state solution, Israel will eventually destroy itself as a Jewish nation and will have to suffer the long difficult situation of accommodating a bi-national Palestine.
Arie Brand says
I think open contact with Hamas would be very useful was it only to counter mendacious Israeli propaganda stressing that Hamas is still holding on to its 1988 charter – the charter that calls for the destruction of the Jewish State.
Hamas has in the last few years moved away from this position and is now close to the Arab peace initiative that proposes recognition of an Israel with the “Green Line” as its border (and hence demands Israeli withdrawal from the settlements).
The Guardian already reported more than three years ago (on the 12th of January 2006):
“Hamas has dropped its call for the destruction of Israel from its manifesto for the Palestinian parliamentary election in a fortnight, a move that brings the group closer to the mainstream Palestinian position of building a state within the boundaries of the occupied territories.
The Islamist faction, responsible for a long campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis, still calls for the maintenance of the armed struggle against occupation. But it steps back from Hamas’s 1988 charter demanding Israel’s eradication and the establishment of a Palestinian state in its place.”
Much more recently, the summer 2008 issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies published an interview with Khaled Mishal, Hamas’s political chief, in which he said among other things this:
“There is an opportunity to deal with this conflict in a manner different than Israel and, behind it, the U.S. is dealing with it today. There is an opportunity to achieve a Palestinian national consensus on a political program based on the 1967 borders, and this is an exceptional circumstance, in which most Palestinian forces, including Hamas, accept a state on the 1967 borders….There is also an Arab consensus on this demand, and this is a historic situation. But no one is taking advantage of this opportunity. No one is moving to cooperate with this opportunity. Even this minimum that has been accepted by the Palestinians and the Arabs has been rejected by Israel and by the U.S.”
Even more recently, just before the onslaught on Gaza, Mishal repeated this in an interview with a French Jew.
Norman Finkelstein has suggested that it is exactly these peace overtures that have instigated the attack on Gaza. Israel could not lose its propaganda asset about the supposed threat to the survival of the Jewish state. Hamas had to be provoked into a return to its earlier and more uncompromising stance.
I cannot understand why would Obama support negotiating with Hamas if they are listed as a terror organization by the US State department along with Al Qaeda? Hamas in reality cares less about their own people as clearly was displayed in the recent war in Gaza where they used women, children and old man as human shield. Hamas continues to this date to launch rockets into Israeli territories with its intractable intent, to kill more Jews. It is like saying negotiate with Osama Bin Ladin. In other words, to kill Jews Hamas does not care if it takes to kill their own. And Hamas’s charter still calls for the destruction of Israel, a viable democratic state with all its flaws. Mr. Silverstein, how and why do you justify negotiating with Hamas? Thank you.
Richard Silverstein says
You’re ignorant & prejudiced. Can you find a single example of such behavior? If not, get off it.
Israel’s chief of military intelligence concedes that Hamas is not firing any rockets at Israel but that Islamic Jihad & other groups might be. You’re once again woefully misinformed–or perhaps informed fr. reading Jerusalem Post or the New York Post (which are one & the same thing).
I’ve only written on this subject about 100 times before. Find what I’ve written & then you’ll know. I’m not about to go over my reasons again.
Walter Ballin says
“I cannot understand why would Obama support negotiating with Hamas if they are listed as a terror organization by the US State department along with Al Qaeda? Hamas in reality cares less about their own people as clearly was displayed in the recent war in Gaza where they used women, children and old man as human shield. Hamas continues to this date to launch rockets into Israeli territories with its intractable intent, to kill more Jews. It is like saying negotiate with Osama Bin Ladin. In other words, to kill Jews Hamas does not care if it takes to kill their own. And Hamas’s charter still calls for the destruction of Israel, a viable democratic state with all its flaws. Mr. Silverstein, how and why do you justify negotiating with Hamas? Thank you.”
Nadir, I agree with Richard that you are misinformed, and I’ll add grossly. Read this article by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions that someone sent me today http://www.icahd.org/eng/news.asp?menu=5&submenu=1&item=655 Oh, I suppose you might say that the people who wrote this are “self-hating” Jews but I know that this will be of interest to many other people who read Richard’s blog.
Hugh Slaman says
It is crazy that the U.S. has not even been talking to Hamas, the elected government of the Palestinian people. Talking is how disputes can ultimately get resolved without bloodshed. Talking with the other side is how mutual understanding can develop. No talking means more violence.
Richard Silverstein and Walter Ballin simply choose to ignore the fact for some odd reason. Even by the Hamasnics’ own words one can learn that the use of human shield is within Hamas’ ruthless and Nazi lilke ideology. See here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0wJXf2nt4Y and if you google about Hamas’s use of human sheild, you will find plenty of entries even by the Gazan’s own words. ICHAD is and has been an apologist for terrorists for a long while now, it is a known fact. Carefully, read Hamas Charter, please:
Among other vicious words it says: “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.”
So who is misinformed here or try to white wash the evil stemming from this barbaric organization called Hamas?
And you still didn’t answer my question: how and why do you justify negotiating with Hamas? Thank you.”
And here is an article just published by the Jerusalem Post:
Dahlan [a Fatah guy] to Hamas: Never recognize Israel
So why this site, run by a Jew, supports a Muslim Brotherhood branch, Hamas, who collaborated with the Nazis and continues its ideology to this date supports Hamas?
Walter Ballin says
“And here is an article just published by the Jerusalem Post:
Dahlan [a Fatah guy] to Hamas: Never recognize Israel
I notice that the link to the article by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions doesn’t have the full text, which someone sent to me. See ICHD’s answer to Israel’s pr “Israeli PR: Hamas is a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize Israel or enter into a political process.” The answer: “An alternative framing: “Terrorist” is a problematic term. States always use it to delegitimize and demonize non-state actors who resist their oppressive policies, as apartheid South Africa did, for example, with the ANC. The term assumes that states, bad as they may be, have the right to employ military force as they see fit. If, however, we take “terrorism” to mean the killing, harming or intimidation of non-combatant civilian populations, then states are far more terroristic, kill far more innocent civilians, than do non-state groups. In the eight years since the second Intifada broke out (September 2000), almost 500 Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinians while almost 5000 Palestinians have died at the hands of Israelis. All attacks on civilians are unacceptable, no matter how just the cause. Yet it is only the Palestinians to whom the term “terrorist” is applied.
“An alternative framing: Presenting Hamas as merely a “terrorist organization” removes the political element from their struggle and presents them as a criminal organization. This not only distorts reality in a fundamental way but, by preventing negotiations, it ensures the perpetuation of mutual suffering. Hamas has its military wing – though nothing compared to the Israeli army – but it is essentially a grassroots religious-political movement that democratically won the Palestinian elections in 2006 and earned the right to establish a government – which was denied it by Israel, the US…and the Fatah part of the Palestinian Authority. It does deny Israel’s legitimacy, as any colonized people would, and there is no reason why it should accept the loss of 78% (or more) of its historic homeland. But Hamas has agreed, as a signatory to the “Prisoners’ Document” and in repeated public pronouncements, to respect the outcome of negotiations of other Palestinian parties (like Fatah) with Israel, if they result in a complete withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. So despite its militant and scary image, despite the fact that it will not legitimize what it considers another people’s colonization of its homeland, Hamas does accept, as a practical political matter, a two-state solution. Given the fact that negotiations with Israel since the Madrid Conference of 1991 have yielded nothing – indeed, Israel’s massive settlement enterprise has perhaps eliminated the possibility of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel – Hamas’s resort to armed resistance is understandable. All attacks on civilians are prohibited in international law. In this regard both Hamas and Israel engage in terrorism, with the later taking by far the greatest of civilian dead, injured and traumatized.”
Having said this, I am not answering replying any more to Nadir’s unintelligent posts.
Hugh Slaman says
I don’t see any text in the link you gave us here. Is there more we are missing?
All I see is a photgraph of a man raising his hand, and a title that says “Dahlan to Hamas: Never Recognize Israel”.
So it looks like a Fatah guy named “Dahlan” is telling Hamas never to recognize Israel.
So what, then? Hamas usually doesn’t take orders from Fatah people anyway, so this tells us nothing about the current thinking in Hamas about this issue.
Now you say that Hamas collaborated with the Nazis; but Hamas was founded in 1987, several decades after the defeat of Hitler’s forces: so which Nazis have they been working with since then, to the best of your knowledge?
Well, you all certainly have a perspective on HAMAS that is certainly different than those of us Israel have….a democratic, peaceful organzation committed to peace and friendship with Israel if only Israel would end the occupation, who would never think of hiding behind civilians, do not fire any rockets at Israel (I presume this means that HAMAS does NOT control the Gaza Strip because if they did they would not let these rogue groups like Islamic Jihad defy them) and are basically just a bunch of sweethearts. If so, I would appreciate it if you would just answer one question for me:
Why have the refused to have anyone like the Red Cross make contact with Gilad Shalit? Since Israel is constantly excoriated here as a brutal, deceitful country with no morals, and HAMAS is presented as the opposite, wouldn’t HAMAS be the first to volunteer such a humanitarian gesture that wouldn’t cost them anything and would show the world their good side which you have pointed out to us here?
Richard Silverstein says
Well, Bar K. you have a little problem since a number of the commenters in this thread are actually Israelis like you & don’t agree with yr Likudist perspective on Hamas. Speaking of democratic: Hamas actually fought an election & won. So, yes, it is democratic. You seem to have overlooked that fact or do facts not matter to you?
Do you believe that Hamas, while its militants are being targeted by Israeli missiles, should be able to & expected to prevent all militants from firing rockets? Do you think that every border police force in the world can prevent every act of violence from being perpetrated fr. within it’s borders?
Speaking of sweethearts, I have a far more fundamental question: can you tell me why Ehud Olmert refused to free Gilad Shalit when he had the golden opportunity w. only the number of detainees (350 as opposed to 450) separating them? If Ehud Olmert was a true humanitarian, wouldn’t he have gone the extra mile to free an IDF soldier imprisoned for 3 yrs.??
Hugh, first click on the JP link again as I get the whole article.
And true Hamas was founded in 1987 but they were created as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and indeed they work in concert to propound their radical Islamist ideology. Read Hamas charter in the link that I gave above.
In short, Hamas is good for no one especially to the ordinary Arab Gazans. There is enough testimony by Gazan themselves to this effect. Hamas should be dismantled, they are a terrorist organization and never a state, as first Palestine was never a sovereign country. Indeed the Gazan and West Bankers should be dealt with, but if they supports terrorism, barbarism and suicide/homicide culture they should be evaporated from this planet just like the Nazis were or any other evil on this planet. Hamas = Fatah = tansim= islamic jihad = PLP etc all of whom are terrorists organizations per se. Israel can never be blamed for the Gazan and West Bankers misery; they bring it upon themselves by resorting to hatred and terror.
Also for all of you in this site, do read this:
No Arab land is occupied by Israel
[URL removed per comment rules]
Indeed delve into Nonie Darwish’s site and read her books,
Shalom, Salamat and avec le paix
Richard Silverstein says
Actually, those “ordinary Gazans” seem to disagree with you as a plurality supports Hamas. Now, isn’t that damn inconvenient for you? Unless you’d like to substitute yr own judgment for theirs. Better yet, why don’t you move there & really get yr anti Hamas crusade going. Then you can really see how receptive the “natives” are to your swill.
I always say about the Islamophobic wingnuts, they make it so easy to ban them by propounding this garbage. Read my comment rules, my man. You’ve just violated a whole slew of them.
BTW, we don’t promote Nonie Darwish or any other anti-Muslim sites here. L’hitraot, brother.
You didn’t answer my question about why HAMAS does not allow any visits of the Red Cross to Gilad Shalit, all you did is throw the question back at Olmert. You are telling us at length here why Israel is an immoral state and HAMAS is a peace-loving, law-abiding organization that opposes terrorism. So if that is true WHY DON’T THEY ALLOW SOMEONE TO VISIT GILAD SHALIT. Please don’t say that I am repeating myself, which I know you don’t like. I simply want an answer. Immoral Israel allows visits to their Palestinian prisoners, and since HAMAS is more moral they should do so also. Why haven’t they?
Richard Silverstein says
Because your question is peripheral while my question about Olmert’s refusal to negotiate in good faith to free him is central. As for the question, this isn’t a nation that is holding Shalit as Israel holds Palestinian prisoners. This is a militant force. If it wishes to continue holding Shalit all the niceties of international protocol will likely lead to Israel discovering his hiding place. I’m not defending Hamas’ actions. But your questions are entirely disingenuous since you hardly care whether or not the Red Cross visits Shalit. You’re far more interested in impeaching Hamas than in freeing Shalit.
BTW, if Israel felt there was any danger that it’s imprisonment of Palestinian prisoners would be endangered by Red Cross visits, it would immediately disallow them. You know this is true.
I never said that Hamas is law-abiding. It abides by the law about as much as Israel does.
Richard, you said:
But your questions are entirely disingenuous since you hardly care whether or not the Red Cross visits Shalit. You’re far more interested in impeaching Hamas than in freeing Shalit.
Since I live in Israel and you don’t , I don’t think you have any grounds for making such a comment. I have people very close to me serving in the IDF at this very moment.
Your comment that HAMAS is not an army but a “militant organization” flies in the face of your own claims that HAMAS was “legally elected” as the governing power in the Palestinian Authority and you also recognize the legality of their armed putsch in Gaza (a “pre-emptive coup” as you put it) so that makes the officially responsible for Shalit. And certainly morally so. Now, you claim that Israel would stop the Red-Cross visits if they wanted to, even though they do allow them. Thus, you won’t even give Israel credit for doing something that you would demand from them anyway. So why don’t you demand HAMAS do the same?
Richard Silverstein says
Not what I said. I said Hamas is not a NATION (not “an army”). If Hamas was a nation then it could be expected to have the ability to control its borders, have a professional prison system, army, legislature, etc. But the fact is that Israel doesn’t recognize Hamas as a nation, ruler of the PA, or at all. Not only that, Israel takes every opportunity even to murder Hamas traffic control police in its war against the movement. So why would I be pissed at Hamas for not allowing the Red Cross to visit Shalit when Israel doesn’t even permit Hamas to function in a the same way that Israel itself does as a nation w. respected borders and national institutions (including a prison system)? BTW, Israel has bombed the Gaza prisons so Hamas couldn’t hold Shalit there even if wanted to do so.
If Israel did accord that status to Hamas, I’d have more of a problem w. Hamas not observing the legal niceties of having the Red Cross visit prisoners. Any time you’d like to advocate that Israel accord Hamas such recognition then I’ll change my own tune on the Red Cross visit issue.
And when you decry the U.S.-Israel-Fatah sponsored putative putsch that would have toppled Hamas from control of the PA, then I’ll decry Hamas’ alleged putsch in Gaza. A deal?