I’m one who believes that Hamas must be part of the equation of establishing a new equilibrium in the Middle East. Hamas is not al Qaeda and has evolved into a real, citizen-rooted political order and can’t be wished away.
That said, some Hamas leaders are not making engagement with it easier given the kinds of comments that have been issued recently by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. First he said in a bizarre replay of Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson tunes that the tragic Carmel fire was divine punishment striking the Israelis.
Now Haniyeh has said:
We say it with confidence as we said it five years ago when we formed our government, and we say it today: We will never recognize Israel.
I agree with Zbigniew Brzezinski that trying to get an organization whose founding principles include the rejection of Israel to fall on its sword on those principles before entering negotiations is folly. The approach I support is for other parties (like France perhaps) to engage Hamas and create a separate “conversation” track — and to work to move Hamas to respect all previously negotiated national instruments and agreements of the PLO. This is the back door towards cultivating recognition and acceptance of a ‘different normal’ in the future.
This track won’t be easy — but the status quo is also destined to be a failure in the long run as well from my perspective and to present too high a cost to Israel, the citizens of Palestine, and more importantly to the United States.
But seriously, Hamas leaders are unplugging opportunities for constructive discourse with flamboyant, populist generalizations about the future.
— Steve Clemons