Thursday, April 28, 2011

Demonizing Hamas Is a No-Win Policy

The United States’ initial reaction to the announcement of a deal between Fatah and Hamas to form a temporary transitional unity government prior to elections next year shows once again, as I have oft noted, that our foreign policy is clearly in the hands of the establishment with little of the progressive influence promised by President Obama. 

The reaction was, the United States “considered Hamas a terrorist organization that would not be a reliable partner in peace talks with Israel.”  This echoed the statement of Israel’s P.M., Benjamin Netanyahu.

There is no question that Hamas is a terrorist organization that historically and now calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.  That much said, it must be remembered that it was the elections foisted on the Palestinians by the Bush administration, against both Fatah’s and Israel’s wishes, that provided Hamas with its legistimacy.  There can also be no doubt that there can never be peace between Israel and the Palestinians unless it is with a government that speaks for all Palestinians and unless the new state includes both the West Bank and Gaza.

But during the period since those elections and the later expulsion of Fatah from Gaza, the United States and Israel have acted like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.  They have been pursing a divide and conquer fantasy.   Thinking that somehow there could be peace without Hamas and without Gaza.  Wishful thinking is never a good perspective in developing foreign policy.  Better to be a realist.

Netanyahu even had the chutzpah to say to Fatah that they had to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas; that both were not possible.  Given that Netanyahu has shown absolutely no sincere interest in a viable peace with the Palestinians and has only thrown up obstacles, it is no surprise that Fatah has finally decided that the existing route to peace with Israel was not going to work.

The question, of course, is how to turn Hamas into a peaceful actor that recognizes the State of Israel.  I do not presume to suggest what the answer is.   The only thing one can say for sure is that the strategy followed to date … to force Hamas to submit by strangling Gaza … is not working and will not work.  Instead, it has played very much into Hamas’ hands on the international stage.

Had Obama stuck to his guns on the settlement issue with the Israelis in the U.N., we may have had more credibility in brokering something with Hamas.  As it stands, we have none.

Obama should direct the staff of the Naitonal Security Council and the State Department to put their thinking caps on and come up with a plan to transform Hamas into an entity that we and Israel can work with.  I have no doubt that if they have that as a charge that they can pull it off.  Perhaps even the road to peace lies through Hamas.  Stranger things have happened.