Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Well, This is Troubling

One of the oft-cited goals by those interesting in getting Israel and Palestine back to the negotiating table is to have a unified Palestinian government, representing both Hamas and Fatah. The thought is two-fold: first, that the presence of Fatah will moderate or at least dilute the radicalness of Hamas, and second, that by negotiating with the two groups in tandem, one can get agreements that are more likely to actually be enforced (whereas an agreement only with Fatah doesn't really stop Hamas from doing whatever it pleases).

It's a good thought, but it may run into trouble given what Hamas says are its preconditions for joining a unity government:
The Palestinian Authority must end its peace talks and security coordination with Israel if it ever expects to reconcile with Hamas, one of the group’s senior officials said Sunday.
Speaking at a rally in Beirut, [Osama] Hamdan said his organisation welcomed an inter-Palestinian dialogue but linked reconciliation with Fatah to the Palestinian Authority ending peace talks with Israel and backing Hamas' armed resistance against the Jewish state.

"We say clearly that we welcome a national Palestinian dialogue but this dialogue must include those who really belong to Palestine and to the Palestinian cause," he said.

Hamas officials have accused Abbas' government of working with Israel against the militant group.

"Those who committed mistakes must correct their mistakes through a clear and frank declaration to stop security coordination with the ( Israeli ) occupation, release ( Hamas ) prisoners and later end negotiations (with Israel ) because the peace process is irreversibly over," said Hamdan.

"It's time for us to talk about a reconciliation based on a resistance program to liberate the (occupied) territory and regain rights," Hamdan said.

Okay, problem.

This via This is Babylon, who notes (accurately, as best as I can tell) that Hamas is not taking the majority position here. Most of the Palestinian public has been relatively amenable to the idea of a negotiated solution to the conflict and recognition of Israel (which isn't to say they believe it will actually happen). Unfortunately, the folks with the guns disagree, and the Palestinian political arena does not yet have an entity which is both explicitly pro-peace and credible in the community.

So what do we do? My intuition is that one attempts to keep short-term peace, even with Hamas, alive as long as possible, while hoping that a period of quiet allows a homegrown Palestinian movement to provide an alternative to Hamas that Palestinians can get behind. There are murmurings even within Hamas that they would accept Palestinian recognition of Israel if it were agreed to by the Palestinian people as a whole. Unfortunately (aside from whether we expect they'll hold to that commitment), it's unlikely things will ever reach a point where such a proposal would seriously be on the table until there is an alternate base of power in Palestine aside from Hamas.


PG said...

Speaking of the folks with the guns, has anyone ever asked the pro-gun, pro-Zionist guys at the Volokh Conspiracy (I'm thinking of David Bernstein especially), who believe that gun ownership protects minority groups from being mistreated, what they think about Hamas's weapons store?

David Schraub said...

I have on several occasions wondered that myself (it's idle wondering, since I'm sure he doesn't approve -- it's more why he conceptualizes it as different from weaponry fueling conflicts around the world).