Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi | Hamas
Senior diplomats from various countries, including former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami, published an open letter in the Times of London, whose major message was that peace will be obtained only via dialogue with Hamas. Analysing these arguments one by one demonstrates that the concept advanced in the announcement does not meet the test of Middle Eastern reality and that a policy predicated purely on the "carrot" approach will reinforce Palestinian radicalism.
Senior diplomatic personalities from various countries, including former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami, published an open letter in the Times of London (February 26, 2009), whose main message was: "peace will only be obtained via dialogue with Hamas". The logic behind the arguments presented in the letter merits special analysis. These will be summed up in a number of points presented below, and they will be accompanied by an analysis, commentary and critical remarks.
Argument 1: "The last bloody confrontation between
Those that signed the letter have reached firm conclusions. They claim that Operation "Cast Lead" has been a total failure and has proven that
This gives rise to a no less fascinating question that those who formulated the announcement did not address. In a scenario where Hamas persists with a policy of terror (firing missiles, shooting attacks and the like), after the policy recommended by the signatories was adopted and the European Union recognized Hamas and began engaging with the organization to involve it in the diplomatic process, how are Israel and the European Union to behave in order to deter Hamas? For even under this scenario their fundamental assumption namely that an application of pressure to Hamas is fated to damage regional security remains valid. Do they actually believe that the free world, that preaches the values of democracy civil rights and liberalism, is doomed to be fettered by a Palestinian terror organization?
Moreover, the message conveyed by their statement is that the West can only influence Hamas via positive incentives ("the carrot") and it lacks effective tools for sanctions ("the stick"). Such a concept can be interpreted by Hamas as decisive proof that the path of terror works and will provide re-doubled sanction to the realization of its plan of completing the takeover of the Palestinian Authority in the areas of Judea and Samaria as well thus becoming the solitary and exclusive representative of the Palestinian people. The upshot is recognition of Hamas without exacting a significant price for this concession. This can only further weaken the rule of President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and pave the way for the establishment of an Islamic emirate in the entire area of
Argument 2: "Without Hamas an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is impossible. There is no importance to a peace process where only representatives of a single Palestinian side are involved, while an attempt is being made to destroy the other side."
The logic behind his argument is most dubious. Hamas opposes the diplomatic process and its leaders constantly reiterate, including in recent days, that Abu Mazen's regime is totally lacking in legitimacy and they will never consent to recognize
Argument 3: The most important measure for Hamas to take is to cease expressions of violence as a precondition for its inclusion in the process."
This approach is diametrically opposed to the approach underlying the
Argument 4: "An end to the isolation [of Hamas] will promote a spirit of re-conciliation within the Palestinian national movement and this is a necessary condition for meaningful negotiations with
The latent assumption behind this argument is fundamentally ludicrous. Hamas does not conceal its intentions to topple Abu Mazen's Palestinian Authority and obtain total control in all areas of the Palestinian Authority. It attempted to carry out this plan already in January 2009 but was thwarted due to Operation "Cast Lead" and the target date was "deferred" to January 2010, the dates that the parliament and the presidency (even according to the legal interpretation of the Palestinian Authority) end their term of office. Recognition of Hamas by the European Union can with a high degree of probability turn out to be the coup de grace for Abu Mazen's regime. Do the signatories to the letter really believe that the Islamic alternative personified by Hamas to Abu Maazen's rule is preferable for the West?
Argument 5: "Isolation only reinforces the extremists and their uncompromising policy. Involvement can strengthen the moderate forces and their ability to agree to the difficult compromise that is necessary for peace."
The involvement of Hamas in the diplomatic process will strengthen the "moderates" so our experts on negotiations and diplomacy have positively determined, but for some reason they refrained from defining to whom they precisely refer when employing the term "moderates". Given the assumption that they consider the Fatah organization moderate as well as the Palestinian authority of Abu Mazen, it is plausible to assume that they refer to "moderates" who belong to the ranks of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. If so, why are they so chary about identifying these moderate people by name? Are there indeed "moderate" people in Hamas and Islamic Jihad who oppose the ideological, Islamic, dogmatic and extreme platform and are prepared to cross the Hamas leadership and openly endorse recognition of
The argument that posits recognition of Hamas ("the extremists") will encourage decisions regarding a "painful compromise" by the Palestinian side is bereft of logic, and it is akin to exhorting the United States to recognize Al Qaeda and involve Osama bin Laden in the Afghan regime in order to reinforce the "moderates", and encourage Al Qaeda to embark upon the path of compromise.In summation, the concept presented in the pronouncement cannot meet the test of Middle Eastern reality. The experience of both the recent and distant past instructs us that is precisely a combination of "carrot and stick", a diplomatic horizon coupled with a stern hand in the security realm, that can induce the Palestinian side to adopt a policy of (temporary) reconciliation with the status quo and tactical flexibility in its positions. A policy of awarding diplomatic "presents" without any recompense of substance (see the "Disengagement") has proven its worth by reinforcing radical tendencies within the Palestinian camp. The signatories to the pronouncement propose adopting a diplomatic demarche of vast significance, based on fundamental assumptions that are more in the realm of religious beliefs or a throw of the dice with its deterministic results (in their eyes), while they lack a shred of evidence or an iota of proof about the feasibility of the policy.