Saturday, April 08, 2006

Hamas Speaks Reasonably – At Last

The United States will cut off all assistance for building projects in the Palestinian territories and at the same time increase humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, State department announced yesterday. Similarly European Union declared it will cut direct aid to the Hamas led government. This is a reaction to ruling Hamas’ history of violence and its refusal to renounce its long standing vow to eradicate Israel.

This obviously synchronized action by US and EU follows Sharon’s party Kadima’s election victory (nevertheless, Olmert got less votes than he hoped for). During election campaign future prime minister Ehud Olmert promised he would continue Sharon’s policy of unilateralism, part of which was the disengagement from Gaza that took place last summer.

Present Israeli policies, now approved by the electorate, are a direct consequence of Fatah’s and Hamas’ politics of perpetual war. In an atmosphere where there is no interlocutor on the other side of a table, the only rational possibility left to Israel seems to be unilateral action of securing its borders and retreating from territories that proved to be too big a burden. Sharon himself paid a high price for this vision of peace, since Benjamin Netanjahu and others forced him to leave the same Likud he helped to establish many years ago. Sharon now lies in a coma, but his revenge on his old party comrades is sweet: not only had Sharon broke his ties with Likud - he broke the Likud, as one commentator put it.

Not just Kadima, the Labor also advocates the same policy, though its emphasis is slightly different. On the other side it seems symptomatic that both Hamas and hawks in Likud objected Sharon's successful strategy of disengagement. Certainly the disengagement from Gaza that took place last summer was extremely painful for Israeli society as a whole. But the real victims of the disengagement were the settlers, vast majority of them being orthodox and Zionist Jews who always understood settlements as Israel's last defense line and also as their sacrifice for the Holly land. One cannot deny the fact this really was a sacrifice since for years settlements and especially setters were hit the hardest by terrorism. Thus one of many dramatic consequences of the disengagement is an unprecedented inner rift in Zionist movement, one part of it now being deeply disappointed and suspicious of state of Israel. However, the greater part of the public have now voted for pragmatic policy of unilateralism.

It’s clear that peace in the Middle East will never be achieved without Israel giving up some of the territories it occupies. Both sides must accept reality eventually, but this seems increasingly difficult for Palestinian leaders (including those belonging to now defeated Fatah movement!), who have so far insanely clung to their “death to Israel” rhetoric. It seems that only prospects of loosing subsidies from the West will force Hamas to reconsider its position. In this manner new Palestinian foreign minister Zahar already wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary General, stating Hamas is prepared to engage in ”serious and constructive dialogue” to reach “just and comprehensive solution”. It seems Hamas even considers a possibility of a “two-state” solution in which Palestinians have “freedom and independence side by side with its neighbors”.

To the obvious detriment of the Palestinian people both Fatah and now Hamas have not been serious for years in their “peace efforts” - the consequence being Israeli public’s decision to stop waiting. Both disengagement and newly elected Hamas led government can be seen as an opportunity for both nations to take a step forward. Israel already painfully gave up part of occupied territories and at the same time forcefully removed its own citizens from it. Furthermore, during election campaign Olmert promised a partial retreat from territories West of Jordan. In the aftermath of Israeli elections it’s now Hamas’ turn to face the responsibilities of leading its people and finally identify true Palestinian interests. Language of reason, used in a letter to Secretary General, is a good start.


At 9:28 AM, Blogger Michael M. said...

Oddly, al Zahar later denied mentioning a two-state solution in that letter. Hamas seems slightly schizophrenic on the issue.


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