Sunday, January 15, 2006

Peace between Israel and Palestine: Hamas Promises to Negotiate with Israel

Israel has decided to allow the Palestinian population in Jerusalem to vote in the election later this month. Present opinion is that support is extremely strong for Hamas in Jerusalem, and most people believe that this decision, while necessary, will seal the election for Hamas.

Perhaps in preparation for this possibility, or perhaps in an effort to pick up more votes from centrist Palestinians, the #2 person in Hamas, Sheikh Mohammed Abu Tir, has clearly stated that not only will Hamas negotiate with Israel, but he’ll “negotiate [with Israel] better than the others, who negotiated for 10 years and achieved nothing.” He indicates that Hamas’ agenda has changed, as signified removal of sections in their constitution which call for Israel’s destruction.

"In the past, it was said that we don't understand politics, only force, but we are a broad, well-grounded movement that is active in all areas of life. Now we are proving that we also understand politics better than the others," Abu Tir said. These are amazing words from a man who has spent the better part of 30 years in Israeli prisons or detention centers. You would think he would be angrier, bitterer. But instead this sounds like the words of a moderate, even-tempered leader.

This raises more questions for me then it answers. Is Abu Tir on the level, are these actually his beliefs, or his he saying what he believes either the Palestinians, the Muslim world, or the entire world wants to hear? Of course I want to believe he would be a good partner for peace, but I must admit to being skeptical, having been burnt by trusting before. But perhaps this situation can’t be solved without a bit of trust. If so, many of us will have to give Abu Tir the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, whether I trust him matters little, whether Israel trusts him matters a great deal. Will Israel go to the negotiating table with an organization that has committed so many terrorist attacks? Will they go to the table with an organization that probably, either directly or indirectly, use terrorist attacks to serve their political agenda? Part of what makes Hamas say they will be a better negotiator is that they are stronger than the PA, and that Israel fears Hamas, and will not take advantage of Hamas. Israel only fears Hamas’ terrorist capability, so terrorism will have to be part of the Hamas agenda.

I think it’s telling that Abu Tir, the #2 man in Hamas, made this statement, as opposed to Mahmoud Zahar, #1 in Hamas. It’s sort of like the vice presidential candidate making a promise as opposed to the presidential candidate during an election; with the #2 making the statement, the #1 person can later decide not to follow through on the promise. Maybe Abu Tir is a moderate, a partner for peace, but if Zahar is an extremist, Tir’s moderation will do little to help the situation.

As chaos ensues in the Gaza strip, less and less confidence is shown in the PA and in Abbas. The Palestinians don’t respect him, and the Israelis know that he is not the voice of the people. If Abu Tir is on the level and is representative of the Hamas party in general, perhaps they will turn out to be a better partner for peace than the PA, although I’m sure they’ll be a tougher partner. But before anyone will consider Hamas a real partner for peace, they have to prove they’re trustworthy.

Posted by Scottage at 6:49 PM / | |