How to Break the U.S.-Hamas Impasse

From my new op ed in the National:

There’s no question that the likely victory of Benyamin Netanyahu in this week’s Israeli election will be a setback for US hopes of brokering a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians. Mr Netanyahu is not interested in final-status talks, and his key coalition partner is likely to be the far-right Avigdor Lieberman, who advocates expulsion of Israel’s Arab citizens and opposes any compromise with the Palestinians.

Still, there’s no doubt that Washington will continue to work with a Netanyahu government, just as it did when he won the 1996 election on an anti-Oslo ticket. The Americans may have their preferences, but they don’t for a moment imagine that they get to choose Israel’s leaders.

The same logic, of course, should apply for the Palestinians, but this has yet to be recognised by Washington, which has spent the past eight years trying to choose the Palestinians’ leaders for them – to increasingly disastrous effect.

Convinced in 2001 that Yasser Arafat and his autocratic style of leadership was all that stood in the way of Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Bush Administration demanded that he cede control over finances and the security forces to his elected legislature and its prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. Arafat died and Abbas replaced him as president, but the Palestinian electorate had other ideas about who should rule. When Hamas contested the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, the voters awarded it 74 seats to Fatah’s 45.

In a 180-degree turnabout, the Bush administration then insisted that Abbas revert to Arafat’s model of governance, keeping the money and the mukhabarat in his own hands and outside the control of the elected government. Not only that, the US imposed a collective punishment on the Palestinian voters for their choice, leading the charge to impose a financial siege. And when Abbas in 2007 formed a unity government with the democratically-elected ruling party in his legislature, the Bush Administration intervened directly to sabotage that effort.

The bloody denouement of this flawed strategy came in Israel’s 22-day pummeling of Gaza, that left some 1,300 Palestinians dead. But Hamas is still standing and is stronger politically. According to the latest survey by an independent polling organisation in Jerusalem, Hamas would win a Palestinian election if it were held tomorrow.

Israel and even some Arab leaders still speak fancifully about putting Fatah in charge of rebuilding Gaza, but that’s a dangerous fallacy. The reality on the ground is that no progress is possible in Palestinian political life – from Gaza’s ceasefire and reconstruction to meaningful peace negotiations with Israel – without the consent and support of Hamas. Tying progress on those fronts to efforts to marginalise Hamas gives Hamas an incentive to play the spoiler, and with the credibility of Abbas and Fatah in Palestinian eyes now at an all-time low, it simply isn’t smart politics.

Hamas has to be involved, but that requires finding a formula to deal with the prohibitions imposed by the US and its allies on engaging Hamas until the movement symbolically renounces violence, recognises Israel and embraces past peace agreements. Hamas is unlikely to make declarations that it would deem a symbolic surrender, and nor is the US likely to reverse itself on those preconditions, as President Barack Obama has now twice made clear.

The art of diplomacy, in such an instance, is to find a way for both sides to compromise without appearing to do so. And the good news is that there’s plenty of scope for closing the gap.

To read the rest, click here

This entry was posted in Situation Report and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to How to Break the U.S.-Hamas Impasse

  1. Peter says:

    Hi Tony,

    It doesn’t matter who anyone talks to, the PLO, Fatah, Hamas, Little Bo Beep,etc. there will be no meaningful peace talks until Israel decides it wants peace. It obviously doesn’t – basically all it has to do is go back to the 1967 boundaries and a deal will be done. Israel continues to move in the opposite direction, allowing settlements on the West Bank to grow.

    It’s about time that comentators like yourself stop buying into the BIG LIE – that there is a ‘peace process’. In the short term every thing is down to what the Israelies want to do – and peace isn’t on their agenda. So if the US is to talk with anyone it is the Israelies.

    And the really interesting discussion is to how this is to play out in the longer term, and how this conflict will eventually resolve itself.

  2. Y. Ben-David says:

    Peter-No Arab (except for powerless players like Sari Nusseiba) has ever offered Israel peace in return for a withdrawal to the pre-67 lines. The Saudi plan calls for implementation of the Palestinian “Right of Return” for refugees. Although some on the Israeli Left such as Yossi Beilin and (apparently) Prime Minister Olmert have agreed to the point of accepting a “symbolic return” of 50-100 thousand refugees, no Arab party has agreed at this point to anything less the possibility of full implementation. No Israel gov’t will ever agree to such a thing. This demand of the Arab side shows that they have no intention to make peace, they only want to “seem reasonable” by supposedly making an offer of “peace” but then conditioning it in such a way that Israel can never accept it. The Arabs then hope to make it seem that they are the reasonable peaceseekers and it is the Israelis who are the intrasident party.

  3. Arie Brand says:

    It is quite obvious that the demand regarding the right of return constitutes an ambit claim.
    The real sticking point is the settlements. They have to be given up. Israel is not prepared to do that. The talk about the right of return is just a diversion.

    Here is (in abbreviated form) Avinery’s take on the situation:

    “In Israel, every international initiative designed to put an end to the conflict passes through three stages: (a) denial, (b) misrepresentation, (c) liquidation.

    That’s how the Sharon-Peres government will deal with this one (i.e. the Arab Peace Initiative AB), too. It can draw on 53 years of experience, during which both Labor and Likud governments have succeeded in scuttling every peace plan put forward.
    (We must nor suspect, God forbid, that the successive Israeli governments were opposed to peace. Not at all. Every one of them wanted peace. They all longed for peace. “Provided peace gives us the whole country, at least up to the Jordan river, and lets us cover all of it with Jewish settlements.” Until now, all peace plans have fallen short of that.)

    PHASE A is designed to belittle the offer. “There is nothing new there,” the Political Sources would assert. “It is offered solely for tactical purposes. It is a political gimmick”. If the offer comes from an Arab: “He says it to the international community, but not to his own people”. I short, “It’s not serious.”
    Such methods are already being applied now to the Saudi offer. First it was said that Crown Prince Abdullah had spoken about his initiative only with an American journalist, but not addressed his own people. When it transpired that it was widely published in all Saudi papers, both at home and in London, another argument was put forward: the prince has made his offer only because Saudis had become unpopular in the United States after the Twin Towers outrage. (As if this matters.) In short, Abdullah has not become a real Zionist.

    This point was widely discussed in the Israeli media. Commentators commentated , scholars showed their scholarly prowess. But not one (not one!) of them discussed the actual content of the offer.

    PHASE B is designed to outsmart the offer. We do not reject the offer. Of course not! We are longing for peace! So we welcome the “positive trend” of the offer and kick the ball out of the field.

    The best method is to ask for a meeting with the Arab leader who proposed the offer, “to clarify the issues”. That sounds logical. Americans think that, if two people have a quarrel, they should meet and discuss the matter, in order to end it. What can be more reasonable than that?
    But a conflict between nations does not resemble a quarrel between two people. Every Arab peace offer rests on a two-part premise: You give back the occupied territories, and you get recognition and “normalization”. Normalization includes, of course, meetings of the leaders. When the Israeli government demands a meeting with Arab leaders “to clarify details”, it actually tries to get the reward (normalization) without delivering the goods (withdrawal from the occupied territories). A beautiful trick, indeed. If the Arab leaders refuse to meet, well, it only shows that their peace offer is a sham, doesn’t it?

    The preferred method is to kill the spirit of the offer slowly, to talk about it endlessly, to interpret it this way and that way, to drag negotiations on and on, to put forward condition which the other side cannot accept, until the initiative yields in silence. That’s what happened to the Conciliation Committee in Lausanne, that is what happened to most of the European and American peace plans.

    PHASE C: If phases A and B have not worked, the liquidation stage arrives. Nowadays it is called “targeted prevention” or, simply, “ascertained killing” by the army.

    Usually, Israeli governments use two deadly torpedoes in their arsenal: the US Congress and the American media. William Rogers, President Nixon’s secretary of state, for example, proposed a peace plan that included the withdrawal of Israel to the pre-1967 border, with “insubstantial changes”. Israel released its torpedoes and sunk Rogers together with his plan. His job was taken over by the Jewish megalomaniac, Henry Kissinger, and that was the end of peace plans.”

  4. Raed Nusseibeh says:

    Dear Arie
    I would like to hear more about your rejection of zionism. This would help us combat it among other Jews. Most hard core zionists that I have spoken with probably would not argue with your version of history-they would just say that they were justified in doing so. Thus, they are lost to humanity. However, the vast middle ground probably doesnt care much, and might get a vague sense of embaraasment when Isrel is mentioned in the news. How do we reach those people, and get them to take the first step of rejecting zionism, and then the more difficult step of going against their own community

  5. Arie Brand says:

    Hi Raed

    I have got little to add to what I already wrote on this.

    I firmly believe that anyone with a basic sense of fairness and a regard for truth will when s/he seriously looks at the available information come to similar conclusions.

    Recommending Tony’s blog, and that of Philip Weiss, Richard Silverstein and others, might help.

  6. Matthew says:

    Arie: I also reject Zionism the same way I reject the notion that America is a White Christian Nation. America is secular nation with lots of whites and lots of Christians. But you don’t have to be either to be an American. And we have a Black president. America rocks!

  7. Y. Ben-David says:

    Richard Silverstein would be greatly offended if you said he was not a Zionist. Go ask him yourself.

    I agree nationalism is bad. That is why we Zionists should oppose giving the Palestinians a state. Shimon Peres himself said “land is not important, it is the spirit that is important”, so we would be doing the Palestinians a favor by NOT giving them a state. They can then be superior to us primitive nationalist Zionists by giving up their own nationalism and “making the difficult step of going against their onw [Arab] community and simply merging into the undifferentiated mass of humanity, just like you recommend to us Jews (only trouble is that we tried that for the last 2000 years but it didn’t work out, but that shouldn’t concern you).

  8. Arie Brand says:

    Ben-David wrote:

    Richard Silverstein would be greatly offended if you said he was not a Zionist. Go ask him yourself.”

    I am not aware that I said anywhere that RS is not a Zionist. And if he is his Zionism seems to me quite different from yours. He doesn’t have to mislead himself and others to keep it alive.

    I am not aware that I said

  9. Arie Brand says:


    Sorry for that last bit of phrase.

  10. Y. Ben-David says:

    I just want to clarify that I quoted Shimon Peres because he is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize along with Arafat.

  11. Raed Nusseibeh says:

    I looked at Silverstein’s site and I was disappointed. Silverstein seems to advocate a two state solution, in which Israelis get to keep some of the stolen land (pre 1967) Israel. The true solution is for Israelis to be absorbed among the wide expanses of the earth, so that Palestine can be returned to the Palestinians. Theft is theft

  12. Joshua says:

    “I agree nationalism is bad. That is why we Zionists should oppose giving the Palestinians a state. Shimon Peres himself said “land is not important, it is the spirit that is important”, so we would be doing the Palestinians a favor by NOT giving them a state.”

    It’s rather odd that someone who is not a Palestinian would want to do “favours” for them when it clearly benefits Israel and Zionism. Since you are for “favours” against nationalism as you agree that “it is bad” then abolish Zionism with it. Why not kill both nationalisms with one stone (but stone don’t kill)? It seems that this is more of a recipe for domination by the powerful over the powerless.

    I think this is rather silly, meagre and pathetic. Why does it seem that every Zionist has the perfect formula for Palestinians to live by? They have to do this before they get the state. They have to renounce this before they the state. So many rules when Zionism never played by them either. It’s shameful. But that’s how this business seems to work.

  13. zealot says:

    This is because Jews like You or Arie or Tony agree to play by the rules of the game as defined by Zionists like YBD, i.e. They do the shooting, you do the whining. Is it then so surprising that their contempt for you allows them to put up drivel such as this, in full knowledge that you will just whine some more, and not DO anything about it?

    Then again, why should gainfully employed comfortable people like you put their comfort on the line, when all your nation has to loose is the immunity from persecution gained in the west through the fires of holocaust.

    Let Zionists undermine that, by organising for Palestinians a holocaust of their own.

  14. Tom says:

    Dear Tony,
    “The art of diplomacy, in such an instance, is to find a way for both sides to compromise without appearing to do so. And the good news is that there’s plenty of scope for closing the gap.”

    You said that. Diplomacy with the thugs of Hamas? Can you say “naive”?
    In the first place, its anot a “How to” recipe…

    Palestinians (et al) bemoan their current tragic situation yet continue firing rockets into Israel. Something is wrong with that piocture.

    Oddly enough, no one has anything critical to say about it. Its apparently acceptable behavior. In the end, Isreal is dragged over the coals for finally retaliating. The human mind is a mysterious place.


  15. I ACTUALLY appeared to be very pleased to find this particular web-site.I want to to thank you for your effort for this amazing read!! I ACTUALLY certainly loving every single little bit of this and I’ve you book-marked to check out brand-new things you text.

  16. Then again, why should gainfully employed comfortable people like you put their comfort on the line, when all your nation has to loose is the immunity from persecution gained in the west through the fires of holocaust.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *