Full diplomatic engagement with all Palestinian parties needed for peace

Original link (with slight modifications): http://religion-culture-dialogue.blogspot.com/2007/07/full-diplomatic-engagement-will-all.html

I was browsing through today’s Christian Science Monitor several days ago and found articles that I thought complimented each other rather nicely.

The first was an article on Israel’s latest bid to boost Fatah in the West Bank and counterbalance Hamas in the Gaza Strip is Israel PM Olmert’s offer to grant amnesty to 178 Fatah militants (in addition to freeing 250 prisoners from Israeli jails) and an op-ed piece by two Middle East academics, Richard Augustus Norton and Sara Roy, who argue that any peace agreement forged between the Palestinians and Israelis must include Hamas.

I will state upfront that I completely agree with Norton and Roy’s op-ed. I support a peace effort that involves both major parties being involved in the negotations process – a full (emphasis on the full) diplomatic engagement with the major parties. Trying to support Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, which is weak and fractured, while ignoring Hamas is indeed a recipe for disaster. While Olmert’s proposals seem like a step in the right direction they are merely a drop in the bucket. According to various human rights and news agencies, there are over at least some 10,750 Palestinians currently sitting in Israeli jails, including almost 400 juveniles.

Of course this is assuming that they are aimed at confidence building, which if put into context may not be the case. This comes as the Israeli government reversed an earlier idea to remove some of its roadblocks that have cantonized the West and has offered a series of financial and military incentives that are clearly designed to destroy Hamas. A divided Palestinian government is surely not in the interests of the Israelis, by casting doubt on the peace process and “calls into question the ability of Hamas’s political leadership, enhanced by the recent agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia in Makkah for the formation of a national unity government, to assert its authority on its military wing.” After all, no organization, including Hamas is a monolith.

This is not to say that I support Hamas’ past and present attacks against Israeli civilians. In case any Islamophobes seek to use this post against me, let me state for the record that I strongly and unequivocally condemn attacks against any non-combatants, against either Israelis or Palestinians. Terrorism is immoral and is not justifiable nor supported by any fundamental teachings of any faith. In fact it is because I am so strongly opposed to terrorism that I believe that Hamas, through a new Palestinian unity government, should be politically engaged. If the claims of Mark Perry, a former Clinton national security aide, are true, then speaking to Hamas can have the effect of mitigating terrorism (PDF, P. 30-35) altogether and making a lasting solution much easier. Hamas is not inflexible. Unlike Al-Qaeda, Hamas’ political visions are not absolutist, rather they very ethno-nationalist, in spite of the occasional “Islamic” referencing. In addition to the alleged success of Mr. Perry, the democratic process has also had a pragmatic effect on the organization, as it dropped its call for Israel’s destruction from its charter and has expressed a willingness to recognize Israel if the Israeli army withdrew to the 1967 borders. (For more on the inconsistencies behind the rationales of not talking to Hamas, see Israeli peace activist Ran HaCohen’s article here.)


Nor is it necessarily in the broader regional interests of the United States that seeks to promote in the area. The complete undermining of Hamas electoral victory and refusal to heed the advice of seasoned diplomats: “Work with Hamas and foster a pragmatic dialogue with Israel” (as Norton and Roy put it) is having a ripple effect. Alastair Crooke, a former British intelligence operative and Islamist politics expert, notes:


The problem for Hamas is that its constituency – the rank and file – and the wider Islamist movement have now embarked on a period of introspection. What is apparent – and this can be ascertained on any number of Islamist websites – is that the mainstream Islamist strategy of pursuing an electoral path to reform is now being questioned. This will have an impact well beyond Palestine – most obviously in Egypt and Jordan. Three events have triggered this reassessment: the sanctions imposed on the Hamas government; last summer’s US-backed war to destroy Hizbullah in Lebanon; and the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which raises not a peep of protest from Europeans. Continued Western hostility towards all Islamists, however moderate their policies, has also frustrated the grass-roots.



If all regional parties want to get serious about peace then they have to get serious about engaging with Hamas. Issues of national interest, democratization and long-term peace and stability are stake if all involved parties continue to “stay the course.”


Alejandro Beutel is program assistant for the Minaret of Freedom Institute with expertise in religious freedom, democratization and security issues.

2 Responses to “Full diplomatic engagement with all Palestinian parties needed for peace”

  1. […] CS Monitor columnist Helena Cobban argues that peace between Israelis and Palestinians can’t be achieved without diplomatically engaging Hamas: […]

  2. […] Turning to Palestine and Israel, the President seems content to forge ahead with a half-baked peace process initiated at Annapolis in order to achieve “a Holy Land where a democratic Israel and a democratic Palestine live side by side in peace.” As with Iran, his bombastic prose is based on a myopic ideology dismissive of crucial facts and lacking in nuance. His attempt to achieve this lofty goal without the necessary inclusion of Hamas and by relying on the politically weak Mahmoud Abbas is foolhardy. Since its inception in 1987 Hamas’ has been continuously evolving, (PDF) attempting to balance ideology with political pragmatism, which includes its most recent attempts at secret negotiations with Israel. By not noticing these continuous changes and excluding Hamas from talks, Bush sets back peace in the Holy Land further and helps Israel shoot itself in the foot by perpetuating its brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories. […]

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