Monday, October 27, 2003

An initially intended to be brief response

1. I have no love for the Sharon government. I agree that they cater too much to the right to the detriment of peace. My only point here is that the Sharon administration was partially, and deliberately, brought about by Hamas through the prolonged terrorism campaign just before the last Israeli elections which finished moderate Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

2. Both sides believe that they can afford to wait; the Israelis for the U.S. neocons to extend their blundering in Iraq into an all out war against fundamentalist Islam, which would swallow up the Islamist Palestinians and enable the Israelis to deal with the remaining leadership on its terms; the Palestinians simply wait for the rest of the world to ride to their rescue against the Israel-U.S. alliance, the U.S. to fall as a world power or for the U.S. to withdraw support from Israel. Which is more imminent?

3. While not intending to completely reopen our good discussion from February on whether there is such a thing as "legitimate terrorism," the "bargaining chips" the Palestinians were asked to give up at Oslo--and agreed to by Arafat--are the terrorist acts prohibited by the Geneva convention. Rightly, the Israelis have always insisted that the cessation of terrorist acts be a prerequisite to any peace deal. Arafat was free to reject the terms at the time, but he did not. Rather, he agreed in a personal power grab and Hamas repudiated the agreement, spit on the authority of Arafat and the PA, and resumed terrorist activities. Against that background, I think the Israelis had every right to consider the agreement breached and proceed with military activities.

4. Yassin's statement that he was willing to accept a two-state solution ranks up there on the credibility scale with George W. Bush saying he's a compassionate conservative whose tax cuts help the poor and O.J. Simpson saying he's innocent and hot on the trail of the real killer. In fact, Article XIII of the Hamas charter plainly states that "initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement [(Hamas)]." Article XI begins: "The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered; it or any part of it should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings or presidents, neither any organization or all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that." And for good measure, Article VII: "The prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation has said: 'The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews)'"; and Article VIII (the official slogan of Hamas): "Allah is its target, the prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes." The more colloquial Hamas slogan is, and has always been, "Islamic Palestine from the river to the sea."

When Arafat began his negotiations, the PLO had a similar charter. Arafat publicly repudiated it in 1988 as a prelude to the peace talks. Noone in Hamas has even considered such a step, because no one in Hamas actually wants a negotiated peace. Any statements to the contrary are simply a public relations move for the benefit of the West.

5. There are conflicting stories of who broke the roadmap ceasefire first.

6. I agree that Arafat is perceived as corrupt and ineffectual by the Palestinian rank and file. Another successful Hamas operation. Hell, he probably is corrupt and ineffectual without any help from Hamas. You'll notice that he's still around despite the fact that Hamas could seize control from him any time it wanted. The reason they don't is simple: they don't want negotiations to be successful. If the negotiations were their responsibility, they would be put in the box of having to negotiate in good faith (which is antithetical to their purpose) or transparently sabotage the talks. They are much happier hiding in the corner behind the straw man Arafat and throw bombs (quite literally). I agree that Hamas should be at the negotiating table. That they are not is the crux of the problem. Unless they change their ways, Israel and the West have no choice but to continue to deal with Hamas with missiles (and other devices which go boom).

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