Paul Pillar, a 28-year CIA veteran and now senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, writes in The National Interest about how ridiculous and self-serving is the reaction of Israel (and the U.S.) to the Fatah’s announcement of political reconciliation with Hamas.
Pillar argues that “The Israeli and U.S. posture toward Hamas is fundamentally self-contradictory.”
Hamas is said to be a “terrorist” organization and as such not an acceptable interlocutor for negotiations. (In fact, Israel has engaged in extensive and detailed negotiations with Hamas over exchanges of prisoners.) Terrorism is a tactic, one whose use comes and goes, not a fixed category of people or of groups. If previous use of that tactic were to be a negotiating disqualifier forever, a lot of useful business would not get done, including on the very conflict at hand. We went through all this with the PLO; there was a time when Israel was vehemently opposed to anyone even talking to the PLO, much less negotiating with it, and went as far as assassinating the organization’s representatives to try to keep the United States from talking to it. The birth of the state of Israel also included much terrorism, perpetrated by men who went on to become top leaders of Israel.
The Israeli prime minister says Hamas is “dedicated to the destruction of Israel.” Actually, Hamas leaders have repeatedly made clear a much different posture, one that involves indefinite peaceful coexistence with Israel even if they officially term it only a hudna or truce. It would be more accurate to say that Israel is dedicated to the destruction of Hamas, an objective that Israel has demonstrated with not just its words but its deeds, including prolonged collective punishment of the population of the Gaza Strip in an effort to strangle the group. Such efforts have included large-scale violence that—although carried out overtly by military forces and thus not termed terrorism—has been every bit as lethal to innocent civilians. In such circumstances, why should Hamas be expected to be the first to go beyond the vocabulary ofhudna and mouth some alternative words about the status of its adversary?
Read the post in full here.
Pillar goes on to note, as I’ve noted before, that there is good reason to believe Hamas is on the road to moderating its position on violent resistance to Israel. Acknowledging that, along with the hypocrisies noted above, would denote a willingness to solve the conflict once and for all. Refusing to acknowledge these things, on the other hand, denotes a firm commitment to perpetuating Israel’s current military and political domination over the West Bank and Gaza.