CAMPAIGN 08 & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Who needs to talk to Hamas?

Hamas as ‘Willie Horton’

Barack Obama had plenty of reason to slap down George W. Bush over the President’s claim that “some people” who advocate talking to Hamas are the latterday equivalents of those who tried to appease Hitler.

But while Obama went on the offensive over the Bush foreign policy of empty posturing that has actually empowered the likes of Iran and Hamas, he may, in fact, have dug himself a hole on the substantive question of talking to Hamas. Obama insisted he had stated “over and over again that I will not negotiate with terrorists like Hamas.”

That, of course, is the wrong answer, because as Joe Klein made clear this week, talking to Hamas is nothing less than the duty of the U.S. government. [complete article]

Hamas hysteria

You’ve got to wonder what sort of anti-Israel, soft-on-terrorism nutjob said this after the elections that brought Hamas to power in 2006: “So the Palestinians had another election yesterday, and the results of which remind me about the power of democracy … Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo. The people are demanding honest government. The people want services … And so the elections should open the eyes of the Old Guard there in the Palestinian territories … There’s something healthy about a system that does that.”

Wait a minute. That wasn’t some pro- terrorist nutjob. It was George W. Bush. The President balanced that assessment of Hamas with, “I don’t see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform.” But that’s the point: it was a balanced statement on an issue that has not produced many such — and none at all in the U.S. presidential campaign. Of course, Bush had a stake in the Palestinian elections. His Administration had demanded them, over the quiet objections of the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority — both of which suspected that the service-providing terrorists of Hamas might win. And very soon after that initial, gracious statement, Bush changed course and, along with some of our European allies, refused to deal with the Hamas government unless it recognized Israel. The message to democracy activists in the region was crystal clear: We want elections unless we don’t like the results of those elections. It stands as Exhibit A of the incoherence of the Bush foreign policy. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — “Incoherence” is too forgiving. Let’s just call it what it is: hypocrisy. The same applies to all that blather that gets repeated so often about demanding that terrorists renounce violence as a precondition for talks. The last time I checked, none of the governments making this demand were themselves Gandhi-like practitioners of non-violence.

There is really only one meaningful precondition that is ever required for negotiations: that each party is willing to negotiate. And if it is violent conflict whose resolution is being negotiated, then peace will hopefully be the outcome of the negotiation; not its imaginary starting point.

(And here’s an etymological note for George Bush. Negotiate: Latin negōtiārī, negōtiāt-, to transact business, from negōtium, business : neg-, not + ōtium, leisure. Negotiation is not leisure, it’s hard work. It’s not “the false comfort of appeasement.”)

As for the hole that Obama has dug himself into here, I don’t see him or anyone else who aspires for elected office acknowledging that they have a duty to negotiate with Hamas.

Fortunately, at this point Hamas really doesn’t need to be talking to anyone in Washington. The most pressing need at this time is for Fatah to be talking to Hamas. What Washington needs to do is abandon the charade of pretending that Hamas can be frozen out of the political equation and acknowledge that reconciliation between the two most powerful Palestinian political factions is ultimately in everyone’s interests.

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