My New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force colleague Daniel Levy, a former Israeli government negotiator who was at the table whenever any key progress was made in Israel-Palestine negotiations and then wrote the Israeli draft of the well-known Geneva Initiative, believes that there is no credible path forward on Israel-Palestine issues and the broader Middle East without generating a formula that ends the isolation of Hamas and tries to get all stakeholders in the eventual outcome to wrestle towards a new and stable equilibrium — that will hopefully leave a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state.
But the Israel-rejecting Hamas that has become in the eyes of many aggrieved Palestinians, sick of Occupation and its toxic dynamics, a legitimate vehicle for their interests in fighing the Israeli forces and expansion of Jewish settlements is not an easy organizational creature to deal with — whether one wanted to or not.
This problem of not knowing who to speak to even if one wanted to was also part of the IRA problem in negotiations between Northern Ireland and England.
Levy, though, has an interesting idea. Get Hamas to look more like the IRA.
I submit it here for consideration because it is an approach I had not thought of before — and may be something that Presidential Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell may be considering (though he won’t be talking to Hamas of course, not directly). I just know that a lot of folks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt follow this blog — and of course Daniel Levy’s writing and thinking.
From The Guardian today:
Mitchell may have already spoken to Hamas on an earlier mission. He visited Gaza and there is speculation that Hamas representatives were present at some of the meetings.
Daniel Levy, who worked for the Israeli government and was involved in the various peace initiatives, said: “The issue, certainly at this stage is not one of US direct engagement with Hamas, but a recognition – even if undeclared – that Hamas will have to be brought into the process, either in the context of internal Palestinian reconciliation or in their own right.”
In Northern Ireland, a distinction was drawn between the political wing of the Republican movement, Sinn Fein, and its military wing, the IRA. The same might be done with Hamas’s political wing and its armed militia, the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, Levy said.
I think that the isolation of Hamas needs to end to if we are going to get to serious negotiations that produce any different endgame — but talking to Hamas and appeasing them are different matters.
We will see what form of engagement George Mitchell organizes in the region and which proxies he works through in dealing with Hamas — but it’s time to realize that the notion that we can prescribe a winner in a Palestinian civil war or that we can choose the winners over the losers in Palestine without undermining the winner is folly.
This approach of promoting a Sinn Fein like approach to dealing with Hamas deserves some discussion.
Mitchell knows this, but I fear many around Obama are advising him to turn the much weakened Mahmoud Abbas into a latter day political winner with American gifts showered on him to trickle down to his people. The time for that approach is long gone.
— Steve Clemons