Monday, May 01, 2006

Slightly Less Than Wonderful News

Ethan Leib links to a piece in the New York Review of Books that claims Hamas' political wing might take the following positions:
- Members of Hamas's political directorate do not preclude significant changes over time in their policies toward Israel and in their founding charter, including recognition of Israel, and even mutual minor border adjustments. Such changes depend on Israel's recognition of Palestinian rights. Hamas will settle for nothing less than full reciprocity.

- Hamas is not opposed to negotiations with Israel, provided negotiations are based on the provision that neither party may act unilaterally to change the situation that prevailed before the 1967 war, and that negotiations, when they are resumed, will take the pre-1967 border as their starting point.

- Hamas will not renounce its religious belief that Palestine is a waqf, or religious endowment, assigned by God to Muslims for all time. However, this theological belief does not preclude accommodation to temporal realities and international law, including Israel's statehood.

- Hamas is prepared to abide by a long-term hudna, or cease-fire, which would end all violence. Here again, complete reciprocity must prevail, and Israel must end all attacks on Palestinians. If Israel agrees to the cease-fire, Hamas will take responsibility for preventing and punishing Palestinian violations, whether committed by Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Intifada, or its own people. Hamas understands that it cannot demand recognition as the legitimate government of Palestine if it is not prepared to enforce such a cease-fire, in the context of its responsibility for law and order.

- Hamas's first priority will be to revitalize Palestinian society by strengthening the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers between various branches of government, and the professionalizing and accountability of the security services. It will aim to end corruption in government and implement new economic and social initiatives that are appropriate to the Palestinians' present circumstances. (My Hamas informant told me that well before the recent legislative elections, Hamas had commissioned teams of experts to prepare detailed plans for the economic and social recovery of Palestinian society; he said that the implementation of these plans would be Hamas's highest priority, but he did not discuss their content.)

- Hamas will not seek to impose standards of religious behavior and piety on the Palestinian population, such as the wearing of the veil or the abaya, although Hamas believes that certain standards of public modesty--but not of religious observance--should be followed by everyone.

Leib calls the agenda "heartening." Maybe I'm just ornery, but I find it difficult to get too excited over this. For one, the caveats Leib notes, that the Hamas official outlining these points refused to go on the record, that the status of Jerusalem under pre-1967 borders is likely a no-go for Israel--as well as one that he doesn't note, that this is the political wing of Hamas, which has not shown any interest in restraining its military wing--seem to absorb a lot of the benefits I might otherwise take from this.

But also, I'm kind of underwhelmed by this proposal even at face value. This point, in particular, grabbed me:
Hamas will not renounce its religious belief that Palestine is a waqf, or religious endowment, assigned by God to Muslims for all time. However, this theological belief does not preclude accommodation to temporal realities and international law, including Israel's statehood.

Is this supposed to be comforting? First of all, theology's record at accommodating temporal realities for more than a small period of time is spotty at best. Second, I don't like the mix of theology into political negotiation. Jews can stake an equal theological claim to all of Palestine, and while I wouldn't presume to tell any religion what it's theological stances should be, I don't think Israel should put that position as a "caveat" to its secular bargaining. Third, the rhetoric is really scary here. It does not guarantee Israel's existence, it merely will "accommodate" its existence as long as a notoriously weak (and hostile) international legal schema requires it. Israel is reasonably strong now, and has enough powerful friends to keep its enemies at least at arms length (except maybe the growing sociopathic demon that is Iran), but there is no guarantee that this will always be the case. I read this statement as only a commitment to delay Israel's destruction, not abandonment of the principle. How is this something upon which long-term security can be staked?

A brief counterpoise, if you'll indulge me: A 16 year old American citizen is in critical condition after being caught in the Tel Aviv suicide bombing. Both the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade and Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility, was thrilled that Daniel Wultz was injured, though it expressed regret that he wasn't killed. From Islamic Jihad:
"The meaning and the goal of our lives is to fight the devil spiritually and physically. The Jews are the expression of both kinds of devil. No mercy for devils."

[Islamic Jihad Leader]Abu Ayman expressed regret Wulz [sic] wasn't killed in last week's terror attack.

"The only sorrow that I feel is that the Jewish parents of this Daniel Wultz did not suffer like an average Palestinian family who lost its child. Maybe if their child was killed they and the Americans would have to pay attention to the suffering of thousands of Palestinian families who lost their children."

And from the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, affiliated with the "moderate" Fatah:
"I want to use this occasion of speaking to the American people to tell them that the unfair support of your people to Israel is the reason that you are targeted almost everywhere in the world. Second, I want to bring to your knowledge that the most cruel settlers are those who came from America. It is known that the Jews are sly and not honest, and they are leading into this trap of the Middle East in order to carry out their plan of controlling the world."

Oh yeah. This is going to turn out great.

No comments: