Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hamas, Sinn Fein, and Prospects for Peace

The first night Gerry Adams dined at the White House, the US terrorism cherry was gone. Sorry for the crude analogy, but crudeness is appropriate here. Get off our high horses. Former terrorists are our partners in Ireland, among other places. Sinn Fein did not renounce violence until years after it came into the government. To mangle Rumsfeld: you make peace with the enemy you have, not the enemy you want. The US and Israel all but dared the Palestinians to vote for Hamas, by making it clear that this would scare the daylights out of both. Now they have done it, and Reuters is reporting that Hamas has an absolute majority in the Palestinian parliament. If we really had wanted Fatah to win, Rice should have said, "We don't really care if they vote for Hamas, because they're ineffective and, frankly, electing Hamas will probably just ensure that Israel gets to extend its security barrier and make more settlements."

So what? Israel elected Sharon in order to have the hardest of hardasses negotiate. Palestinians have done the same. If this means that the Palestinian Authority will have the ability to establish order and make stick any deal they make with Israel, then so be it. Democracy is messy.

I don't mean to say "terrorism, shmerrorism." Obviously, if Hamas continues significant terrorist activities while it is in the government, it just has to be treated as a pariah, but that's a different principle. It's one thing to stick one's nose in the air and say "We don't negotiate with terrorists" meaning, in effect, "we won't talk to anyone who doesn't officially renounce terror." That's foolish. It's quite another to say "we won't talk to anyone actively using terror as a negotiating tactic." That's crucial.

I suspect, however, that Hamas will try a bit of terrorism, get world reaction like I have described, then pull back. Mostly, it will work to solidify its power on the ground, ousting Fatah and seizing power for itself everywhere. This will be an internecine fight for the next 18 months or so. As far as negotiating with Israel, if Hamas can do what Fatah never could - actually deliver on its end of the bargain, i.e., stopping terrorism and establishing order - then Israel will find that it does have a partner, if not a partner for peace.

In short, the election of Hamas is like a breath of fresh air. The cards are finally on the table. Because Hamas has worked hard to build a network of schools, clinics, and other practical charitable organizations, I am cautiously optimistic that it is a well-run and pragmatic group, not true ideologues. If I am wrong, it only means that Israeli settlements will expand and the security barrier will go deeper into the West Bank. The real losers will be the Palestinians themselves. Indeed, if I were a right-wing Israeli, I might secretly welcome my adversary putting on his crazy dress in public.


Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG is right: for the U.S. to say "we don't negotiate with terrorists" is nice rhetoric, but when these groups succesfully entered their respective democratic, political processes, Hamas, Fatah (the old PLO--let's not forget who they are) and the Sinn Fein/IRA got themselves a seat at the table. I admire LTG's statement that, "you make peace with the enemy you have, not the enemy you want."

As LTG says, when Hamas finally decides to take that seat it has earned at the table, it will be able to deliver on its promise of stopping terrorism far better than Fatah could, for obvious reasons. I hope very much LTG is right that Hamas, by committing itself to Palestinian statehood in this manner, will eventually be ready to accept the two-state solution. But we're a long way from there.

And neither we nor Israel are required to take our seats at the table either until we are ready... and although renunciation of prior crimes and repudiation of terrorism-as-a-principle are issues we can afford to gloss over when the time is right, LTG is correct that we must hold the line and say, "we won't talk to anyone actively using terror as a negotiating tactic." In my view, this means that before we or the Israelis talk with Hamas, they will have to stop all terrorist activity insofar as they are able to do so--they must make every reasonable effort to stop the madness.

By joining in the democratic, political process--and by winning--Hamas is now responsible for the welfare of the Palestinian people. It can no longer shoot from the sidelines; it has put itself at the center of the shooting range, with a big target painted on its head. If it cannot deliver on its promises of jobs and economic renewal, its esteem among the Palestinian people will be harmed greatly--far worse than anything Israel or Fatah could have done to it. And without negotiating with Israel and/or the U.S., Hamas will not be able to deliver on its promises. We finally have something to hold over them.

Anonymous said...

Here's another wrinkle. People may not have voted for Hamas because of its stand on Israel. Actually Hamas has been much better about maintaining the cease fire than has Fatah (partly because Hamas is better organized - as LTG suggested). From what I've heard a significant part of the Hamas voters were motivated by the rampant corruption in the Fatah government.

Oh, and I think LTG's hit the nail on the head about the potential for this to really reinvigorate the peace process.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way, this development argues strongly against Bush et al's contention that elections or other superficial trappings of democracy are a panacea for terrorism. Hamas is, among other things, a terrorist group by anyone's definition (at least anyone reasonable) and yet here we are confronted with an elected, popular Hamas government. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I agree with all. I especially like Strangelove's point about the PLO. And I am glad that LTG pointed out how we have dealt with Sinn Fein. In addition to that, we have worked with terorrist groups for years. We even contributed to a few of them. The mujahideen come to mind. And I am sure we have played with more than a few in Latin America.

The Palestinians made their choice. Our job is to respect that, if nothing more, than to prove that we are willing to let democracy run its course. At this point, I am willing to bet that more cynical Arabs are just waiting for the U.S. to react in some way as to hurt any chance of success that Hamas now has. It might help us throughout the Arab world if we respect the results of what was declared a free and fair election. As LTG said, Democracy is messy- even in the U.S. 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

It seems unlikely that Hamas will moderate its position anytime soon. It is unseemly to win an election and immediately do a volte-face on issues. The usual wait is a few months. I expect Hamas will not change its tune until the summertime. But they will change it, I predict, to at least remove references to destroying Israel, even to creating a "political wing" of Hamas for government purposes. I predict this because few Palestinians will see this as a sellout (what do the words really mean?) and the PA cannot survive without international funds. Moreover, Hamas wants to control those funds. 

// posted by LTG

The Law Talking Guy said...

I should add the obvious, that a solid majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution with Israel, and Hamas knows it, and will likely maneuver that way to stay in power.

Anonymous said...

I should add one more thing here. Isn't it great that the Palestinian Authority under Fatah and Abbas did not rig the election? It's hard to imagine Hamas winning a victory in excess of the polls if Fatah were rigging the votes, but Fatah controlled the process and couls have pulled a Katherine Harris. International observers have praised the elections as mostly free and fair. That's a piece of good news, no matter how unhappy you may be with the results of the election.

I should add that I don't want my comments to be taken as pro-Hamas (they are NOT) or as pollyannish. Netanyahu will probably be elected by Israelis out of spite. But this Palestinian election is far more a step towards Arab democracy than anything that took place in Iraq under US military occupation.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I heard on NPR the other day that about half of all Israelis think the Israeli government SHOULD negotiate with a Palestinian government including Hamas. 43% thought they should not. The poll suggests that median Israeli wants a two-state solution too and is willing to talk to Hamas to get it. That poll was done shortly before the election but it is encouraging that perhaps a majority of Israelis are not as spiteful as LTG believes.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I heard on NPR that Hamas already removed references to destroying Israel from its "charter" and literature. But I haven't heard that reported anywhere else but on NPR.  

// posted by UNWest