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Hamas Would Honor Palestinian Referendum on Peace with Israel

December 1, 2010

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.

[snip]

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.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    December 1, 2010 11:52 am

    This seems like a stunning and very positive development. The ball’s your court, Bibi.

  2. December 1, 2010 12:37 pm

    Thank you, Stacy, for sharing this. There is so much news this week that I can forgive some organizations being slow to report on the Hamas statement, although they should still report it.

    WikiLeaks’s staging of the data dump, rather than having it all done at one time, has added to the drama. I read that some local press around the world are reporting “leaks” that have not been provided yet by WikiLeaks. There is manipulation going on, whether some organizations had advance notice of the content of some leaks or whether they are reporting some things as leaks that are not from WikiLeaks at all. Fascinating.

    Also, I read on Der Spiegel’s site that a group of WikiLeaks activists is starting a new organization focused on leaks. They say that Assange is focusing too much on the US, and they say they have good material and opportunities elsewhere. Stay tuned…

  3. filipino-american4hrc permalink
    December 1, 2010 2:06 pm

    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.

    Completely agree, Stacy. I would even go further that Hamas should just release Gilad Shalit as a goodwill gesture, even if Israel doesn’t release any Palestinian prisoner. After all, I don’t think Bibi is willing to emulate Tony Blair in this regard:

    “IRA prisoners released for Christmas” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/41958.stm)

    “Talks continue as prisoners go free” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/302334.stm)

    • December 1, 2010 4:12 pm

      Gilad Shalit should be released on principle, because it’s the right thing to do. Of course, doing the “right thing” hasn’t been Hamas’ strong suit.

      Not to sound cynical, but it would also be smart politics on Hamas’ part but we have to remember Hamas is usually playing to a local audience and doesn’t do anything that is seen as appeasing Israel or the US. From a political perspective if Hamas released Shalit without demanding anything in return it would totally put the pressure on Bibi and turn the tables. And the US would be flabbergasted because nobody would expect it. Unfortunately, again, Hamas doesn’t seem too interested in doing the right thing, or even necessarily in doing the clever political thing.

      For their part, Israel should also release some of the rather large number of Palestinian peace activists and even children (aged 12-16) that are apparently in Israeli prisons- we don’t often hear about these folks because, well, the MSM doesn’t really consider them important, but they deserve a chance at freedom too.

      I’ll tell you, I’d love to get Abbas, Bibi and the head of Hamas in a room and tell them no one leaves until we have an agreement or in the alternative, they just tear each other apart or just starve to death in that room. No whining, no complaining, no blaming – just do it. Honestly, they all act like the worst-behaved children at times.

  4. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    December 1, 2010 2:10 pm

    The NYT has at least reported this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/12/01/world/middleeast/AP-ML-Israel-Palestinians.html

    • filipino-american4hrc permalink
      December 1, 2010 2:30 pm

      I also saw it on Politico’s World News section. Let’s hope it gets traction.

  5. December 1, 2010 4:53 pm

    I just saw this over on FP’s Mideast Channel and I thought it was a very thoughtful presentation of the basic issue of creating an economically viable Palestine. It’s written by Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/29/why_im_building_palestine

    It would be helpful if Abbas and Fayyad really tried to reach out more to Western audiences. I know they do do this to a certain degree- Abbas went and met with the heads of many of the major Jewish organizations in the US not too long ago- that takes guts and even some of the pro-Israel hardliners admitted that and admitted that Israel’s leaders would probably never put themselves in a similar situation with the leaders of Arab organizations.

    I’ve also heard that Palestinian leaders have a much harder time getting Op-Eds published in US papers than their Israeli counterparts. That’s too bad because when I read commentaries like the one I linked to above, it certainly dispels some of the stereotypes about the angry, Israel-hating Palestinians. The fact is, a lot of Palestinians don’t hate Israel nor do they hate Jews- they hate the occupation and they are just tired. That’s not to say there aren’t any angry, violence-prone Palestinians who believe Israel should not exist but the fact is, those extreme viewpoints exist on both sides of this debate it’s just that in the US we tend to only hear the one side- the side we identify with the most.

    A big problem for the PA is 1) they aren’t democratically elected and that hurts their legitimacy and b) they have to try to balance reaching out to the West and working with the US and Israel without angering the average suffering Palestinian on the street who thinks that they are essentially US puppets that have been bought off and remain in power without the will of the people behind them.

  6. December 1, 2010 6:42 pm

    And what is Israel up to today? They announced new building in East Jerusalem- in addition to those they announced a few weeks ago.

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-approves-plan-for-625-new-housing-units-in-east-jerusalem-1.328290

    Not one word from the State Dept. press corp about this during the press briefing today despite the fact that PJ Crowly went batshit on the Palestinian Authority yesterday because of a provocative and, to many offensive, interpretation of the history of the western wall in Jerusalem. Crowly even said the statement was much worse than settlement building which caused a heated back and forth between someone named “Matt” and Crowley. I think it was a dumb thing for Crowly to say something like that. Provocative actions from both sides should be condemned equally and the State Dept. shouldn’t get into comparing which is worse- by saying that throwing people out of their homes, bulldozing them and stealing land is not as bad as an insensitive, offensive interpretations about the history of the Wall, strikes me as incredibly biased and quite honestly, it’s the sort of thing that makes me worry that the State Dept. really has a hard time viewing this issue through an objective lens.

  7. December 1, 2010 6:47 pm

    One more thing then I’m off to go eat Latkes. Yay!

    This really bothers me, a lot. I feel like this is the run-up to the Iraq War all over again:

    http://www.juancole.com/2010/12/wikileaks-uk-us-planned-to-pressure-iaea-on-iran.html

    Have a nice night everyone!

  8. Thain permalink
    December 1, 2010 9:17 pm

    I read that press briefing transcript and I’m glad that reporter called Crowley on that comment. Ever notice how the State Dept- not just under this admin. but under any admin- always lashes out at Palestinians in a way they would never do to Israel? Its really rare when the US “condemns” Israel and when they do the Lobby and Congress makes such a stink that from that point on they tip-toe around Israel. But the US constantly lashes out at the Palestinians. What Crowly said shows a total lack of understanding of what the Palestinians go through. As Stacy said, he could have made his point without ranking which provocation was worse.

    Sorry but the State Dept. always takes an uber-Zionist view. They over-identify with the Israelis and that’s fine but then the US can’t pretend to be an objective mediator.

    On another topic. This is terrible:

    http://m.boingboing.net/2010/12/01/wikileaks-and-the-el.html

    This really upsets me

  9. Steve permalink
    December 2, 2010 8:44 am

    This isn’t good and it just reiterates how at the end of the day, the GOP and Democratic party are two peas in a pod. They cover up each others wrongdoing because they know one day it could be them in the hot seat. The Obama admin. worked with the GOP to make sure Bush’s crimes would never be prosecuted even by other governments:

    http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/12/wikileaks-cable-obama-quashed-torture-investigation

    Apparently the powerful are above the law but the rest of us, not so much. Also, I bet the dems knew more about this than they are willing to admit and Obama and his admin. didn’t want to create a precedent that would see them held to account. Obama and his team have worked since day 1 to shield Bush/Cheney from legal accountability saying he wanted to move “forward.” How nice for them.

    I’ve really lost faith in ALL politicians. Yes, I said ALL.

    I’m not voting for democrats or GOP in the next election. I’ll write in somebody’s name.

  10. June 22, 2013 10:34 am

    Two peas in a pot is right.

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