Hamas Would Honor Palestinian Referendum on Peace with Israel
This is actually sort of big news in that it is a softening of Hamas’ stance although this is not the first time Hamas has said it would recognize Israel in a peace deal that respects 1967 borders.
I personally don’t see how any peace deal can be worked out without some sort of inclusion of Hamas even if there are US-Israeli-Palestinian Authority conditions placed on Hamas’ inclusion in talks, much like there were with Sein Fein/IRA during the Northern Ireland peace negotiations. The problem of course is that US domestic politics will get in the way because whenever the word “Hamas” is uttered out loud, the Lobby has a full spun-out fit. Again, there would need to be conditions- putting down arms, recognizing Israel etc. It’s getting harder and harder to justify pretending the democratically-elected Hamas doesn’t exist when it has become obvious that we are willing to negotiate with terrorists/insurgent groups who agree to certain conditions and when it suits our needs and now may be one of those times when it suits both our needs and the long-term security needs of Israel. It’s certainly not politically correct to discuss but there is also no point creating unrealistic peace scenarios simply because we are afraid of the political fall-out from the usual groups simply for floating the idea.
From Haaretz this morning:
Ismail Haniyeh, addressing a rare news conference in the Israeli-blockaded enclave, signaled a softening of Hamas’s long-standing position prohibiting the ceding of any part of the land of what was British-mandated Palestine until 1948.
“We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees,” Haniyeh said, referring to the year of Middle East war in which Israel captured East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.
“Hamas will respect the results (of a referendum) regardless of whether it differs with its ideology and principles,” he said, provided it included all Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora.
The Islamist Hamas movement, whose charter advocates the elimination of Israel, would accept the outcome of a Palestinian referendum on a future peace treaty with Israel, its Gaza leader said on Wednesday.
The Hamas charter, drafted in 1988, regards all of the land of Palestine, including what is now Israel, as the heritage of Muslims. The idea of a referendum on a future peace accord with Israel was rejected by some Hamas leaders when it was proposed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas several months ago.
Negotiations between Abbas and Israel have since faltered over Israel’s refusal to halt settlement building in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
He said his movement was willing to cooperate with Western and European countries “who want to help the Palestinian people regain their rights”. The United States and European Union shun Hamas as a terrorist organization and do not recognize its Gaza authority.
“We urge European foreign ministers to revise their position regarding meetings with the elected government,” Haniyeh said, adding that contacts were being made with United Nations officials in the Gaza Strip in this regard.
He said a priority of his government was to avoid a military escalation with Israel by persuading other militant factions to preserve a de facto ceasefire.
Hamas had repeatedly distanced itself from al-Qaida and had not hesitated to condemn al-Qaida-claimed attacks in some Arab and western capitals, he noted.
Of course, the terms above would not be acceptable to Israel- the 1967 borders recognized by the international community have been ignored by Israel as they have continued to expand well beyond them. Also, the right of return is problematic for many reasons. Then there is Jerusalem- it’s not clear to me if Haniyeh is willing to accept E. Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state as opposed to all of Jerusalem- I can’t tell by his comments above. If Hamas were smart they would up the ante by also agreeing to lay down arms and acknowledge Israel’s right to exist in return for entering negotiations. There would be no reason to require Hamas to acknowledge the uniquely Jewish character of Israel- the only point to that would be to sabotage talks. What matters is Israel’s short and long-terms security. What Arabs think about the ethnic/religious make up of Israel is nothing but a distraction- at least in my opinion.
The one good thing about this is Haniyeh specifically mentions a peace treaty with Israel, being willing to accept a referendum even if it conflicts with long-standing Hamas ideology and there is always the chance that some concessions could be made through negotiations. A fair resolution of the Palestinian issue will enable other Arab states, even those traditionally hostile to Israel, to sign peace treaties with Israel. This will do more to ensure Israel’s long-term security than any amount of bombs dropped on Iran ever will.
I’m not naive about this, nor am I trying to paint Hamas as peacemakers but given nothing else has worked, maybe it’s time to quietly discuss reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas? There is good reason for cynicism given Hamas’ violent history. But perhaps we could just feel this situation out and see if Hamas would be serious about turning away from violence and being a constructive player, like we did with the IRA? Maybe we would find that this is all smoke and mirrors and totally disingenuous or maybe we would find it’s a small narrow opening.
Now, lets see what the reaction of the US press is, if there is even any reaction. I’m very curious because they tend to ignore these things which may not jive with their predetermined script about the role of Hamas. Also, will this be met with the usual cries of “Hamas are terrorists we will never talk with them” or will people will be willing to, as this administration says, “take risks for peace?” Or will the power of certain interest groups ensure that we will continue to think inside the box of narrow conventional beltway wisdom due to certain political pressures- wisdom which hasn’t helped us get one inch closer to a lasting peace, a Palestinian state or long-term security for Israel.