U.S. Getting Real on Hamas?

I maintained from the moment the election results were in that the was U.S. making a tragic error in failing to recognize the democratic election victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections, and engage with it from there. If a party speaks for more than half of a population, then imagining that population’s fate can be determined without consulting that party is the height of colonial folly — yet that’s exactly what the U.S. and Israel have tried to do until now.

But could the self-defeating U.S. boycott of Hamas be starting to thaw? In a fascinating interview with Ahmed Yousef, top political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (kudos to Electronic Intifada for running this), we learn that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently sent a message to Hamas, “passed through some of the Arab leaders in the Gulf to Hamas because the Americans feel that they are satisfied with the ceasefire and that is a credit to Hamas and for the first time they acknowledge that Hamas can control the border and make sure there is no one violating the ceasefire. So it was like a compliment from high-ranking American officials.”

Don’t expect confirmation any time soon, but if true, it would mark a welcome dose of reality from Washington. And the rest of the interview makes fascinating reading, in terms of how Hamas sees the prospects for peace going forward.


AY: We still stick to our political vision which is based on the truce or long-term ceasefire of five, ten or twenty years if Israel accepts to withdraw to the pre-1967 border. This remains our vision of the basis for a peaceful settlement of the conflict… The truce means that the Israelis will withdraw in a specified period, maybe six months, from all the occupied Palestinian territories, and they can get a guarantee for security for these ten or twenty years. We think this might set the stage for confidence building. After twenty years maybe the new generation of Palestinians will have different views for how to settle the conflict.

When you do not have bloodshed maybe that would be a good time to talk about peace, but now while the cycle of death continues and we have daily funerals; I do not think this is a good time to talk about a full peaceful settlement. So we need to have time to heal from the injuries and from the bad memories of bloodshed between Muslims and Jews, between Palestinians and Jews. And after that this new generation will have its own political vision about how to settle the conflict maybe through a binational state or a one-state solution. I am sure they are going to come up with different proposals. But today this is what we can offer. A hudna — twenty years of peace with the Palestinians having their own independent and free state on the pre-1967 borders.

RA: There is a lot of talk about the death of the two-state solution and increased activism calling for a one-state solution as in South Africa. How does Hamas relate to these discussions and what are the current trends in thinking about a long-term solution?

AY: It sounds good to talk about a one-state solution but this will be considered when the two-state solution fails. However, so far we are sticking to our position about a long-term truce. South Africa is a good model for coexistence, reconciliation and atonement. Until now we are still not addressing this issue. But in the future if the world’s expectation of a viable independent Palestinian state fails because of expansionist Israeli policies — already Israel has confiscated and annexed 50 percent of the land in the West Bank — people will come to this issue and we will address it.

RA: Who does Hamas look to as a political model from other struggles in history?

AY: Of course there is Nelson Mandela, and we do look to non-Muslim and non-Arab countries as models. For example, Michael Collins in Ireland [Editor: Collins was one of the key leaders in Ireland’s independence struggle]. I do believe that Hamas also looks at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey as a good model as well. We are not Taliban, we are Erdogan.

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