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Monday, May 01, 2006

Hamas and Peace

Take a look at this very interesting piece on Hamas in the NYRB.  In short, it argues that Hamas's political wing may adopt the following agenda:

  • Members of Hamas's political directorate do not preclude significant changes over time in their policies toward Israel and in their founding charter, including recognition of Israel, and even mutual minor border adjustments. Such changes depend on Israel's recognition of Palestinian rights. Hamas will settle for nothing less than full reciprocity.
  • Hamas is not opposed to negotiations with Israel, provided negotiations are based on the provision that neither party may act unilaterally to change the situation that prevailed before the 1967 war, and that negotiations, when they are resumed, will take the pre-1967 border as their starting point.
  • Hamas will not renounce its religious belief that Palestine is a waqf, or religious endowment, assigned by God to Muslims for all time. However, this theological belief does not preclude accommodation to temporal realities and international law, including Israel's statehood.
  • Hamas is prepared to abide by a long-term hudna, or cease-fire, which would end all violence. Here again, complete reciprocity must prevail, and Israel must end all attacks on Palestinians. If Israel agrees to the cease-fire, Hamas will take responsibility for preventing and punishing Palestinian violations, whether committed by Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Intifada, or its own people. Hamas understands that it cannot demand recognition as the legitimate government of Palestine if it is not prepared to enforce such a cease-fire, in the context of its responsibility for law and order.
  • Hamas's first priority will be to revitalize Palestinian society by strengthening the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers between various branches of government, and the professionalizing and accountability of the security services. It will aim to end corruption in government and implement new economic and social initiatives that are appropriate to the Palestinians' present circumstances. (My Hamas informant told me that well before the recent legislative elections, Hamas had commissioned teams of experts to prepare detailed plans for the economic and social recovery of Palestinian society; he said that the implementation of these plans would be Hamas's highest priority, but he did not discuss their content.)
  • Hamas will not seek to impose standards of religious behavior and piety on the Palestinian population, such as the wearing of the veil or the abaya, although Hamas believes that certain standards of public modesty— but not of religious observance— should be followed by everyone.

This is all very heartening, although it is probably noteworthy that Henry Siegman could not get the "prominent senior member of Hamas's Political Committee" that outlined this agenda to him to go on the record.  Neverthless, there is much in the analysis that is illuminating and more hopeful than one might expect. 

One point, however, gets soft-pedaled throughout the article: There is much emphasis on Hamas's seeming acknowledgement that it could live with pre-1967 borders.  There is little recognition, however, that pre-1967 borders would have Israel losing areas within Jerusalem that are probably off the proverbial table.   

Posted by Ethan Leib on May 1, 2006 at 04:47 PM in Article Spotlight | Permalink


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» Slightly Less Than Wonderful News from The Debate Link
Leib calls the agenda "heartening." Maybe I'm just ornery, but I find it difficult to get too excited over this. For one, the caveats Leib notes, that the Hamas official outlining these points refused to go on the record, that the status of Jerusalem... [Read More]

Tracked on May 1, 2006 9:59:54 PM


Hamas' response to the recent suicide attack in Tel Aviv was definitely disappointing to say the least, and should temper observers' optimism. But in scanning the horizon, one has to acknowledge the tightrope act to which a Hamas-led government is confined. Like any other political party, Hamas has to keep its base (here Palestinian "soccer moms" and extremists) happy while not alienating more moderate voices. In short, a nod to Hamas' political reality reveals that their proposed platform, discussed by Ethan, may be the best of all possible platforms for Hamas to adopt, if peace between Palestine and Israel is our goal.

Additionally, I would be hesitant to interpret the platform (from reading Ethan's summary of it) as putting all of Jerusalem on the negotiating table, so much as posturing. If Hamas is able to enter into negotiations with Israel for permanent borders, a ceasefire, etc., who could possible blame them for initially offering a low bid?

Posted by: Christopher Cassidy | May 1, 2006 8:04:06 PM

I don't think I would describe Siegman's claims on Hamas' behalf as "heartening," especially after Hamas' response to the suicide attack in Tel Aviv two weeks ago, which killed nine bystanders and injured dozens more. Hamas' failure to condemn that bombing, and its justification of the attack (recounted here), makes it hard to take seriously the list of political hopes that Siegman has cobbled together from his sources.

Posted by: micah | May 1, 2006 5:46:22 PM

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