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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why Israel can't make peace with Hamas - or Fatah

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg has an op-ed in Wednesday's New York Times in which he explains why Hamas (and Hezbullah) will never make peace with Israel (Hat Tip: Hot Air). Here's the key passage.
Periodically, advocates of negotiation suggest that the hostility toward Jews expressed by Hamas is somehow mutable. But in years of listening, I haven’t heard much to suggest that its anti-Semitism is insincere. Like Hezbollah, Hamas believes that God is opposed to a Jewish state in Palestine. Both groups are rhetorically pitiless, though, again, Hamas sometimes appears to follow the lead of Hezbollah.

I once asked Abdel Aziz Rantisi where he learned what he called “the truth” of the Holocaust — that it didn’t happen — and he referred me to books published by Hezbollah. Hamas and Hezbollah also share the view that the solution for Palestine lies in Europe. A spokesman for Hezbollah, Hassan Izzedine, once told me that the Jews who survive the Muslim “liberation” of Palestine “can go back to Germany, or wherever they came from.” He went on to argue that the Jews are a “curse to anyone who lives near them.”

Nizar Rayyan expressed much the same sentiment the night we spoke in 2006. We had been discussing a passage of the Koran that suggests that God turns a group of impious Jews into apes and pigs. The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, among others, has deployed this passage in his speeches. Once, at a rally in Beirut, he said: “We shout in the face of the killers of prophets and the descendants of the apes and pigs: We hope we will not see you next year. The shout remains, ‘Death to Israel!’”

Mr. Rayyan said that, technically, Mr. Nasrallah was mistaken. “Allah changed disobedient Jews into apes and pigs, it is true, but he specifically said these apes and pigs did not have the ability to reproduce,” Mr. Rayyan said. “So it is not literally true that Jews today are descended from pigs and apes, but it is true that some of the ancestors of Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and it is true that Allah continually makes the Jews pay for their crimes in many different ways. They are a cursed people.”

I asked him the question I always ask of Hamas leaders: Could you agree to anything more than a tactical cease-fire with Israel? I felt slightly ridiculous asking: A man who believes that God every now and again transforms Jews into pigs and apes might not be the most obvious candidate for peace talks at Camp David. Mr. Rayyan answered the question as I thought he would, saying that a long-term cease-fire would be unnecessary, because it will not take long for the forces of Islam to eradicate Israel.

There is a fixed idea among some Israeli leaders that Hamas can be bombed into moderation. This is a false and dangerous notion. It is true that Hamas can be deterred militarily for a time, but tanks cannot defeat deeply felt belief.

The reverse is also true: Hamas cannot be cajoled into moderation. Neither position credits Hamas with sincerity, or seriousness.
So far, so good. But then Goldberg comes out with this statement.
The only small chance for peace today is the same chance that existed before the Gaza invasion: The moderate Arab states, Europe, the United States and, mainly, Israel, must help Hamas’s enemy, Fatah, prepare the West Bank for real freedom, and then hope that the people of Gaza, vast numbers of whom are unsympathetic to Hamas, see the West Bank as an alternative to the squalid vision of Hassan Nasrallah and Nizar Rayyan.
Why does Goldberg think that Fatah will ever let anyone prepare its 'people' for 'real freedom'? Where else in the Arab world (other than Iraq where the US imposed it militarily) is there any semblance of 'real freedom'? Is Goldberg suggesting that the US and its allies ('mainly, Israel') go to war against Fatah to force it to prepare its 'people' for 'real freedom'?

Most importantly, why does Goldberg think that if the 'Palestinians' of the 'West Bank' had 'real freedom,' they would necessarily live at peace with Israel? Iraq hasn't exactly been jumping for joy over the prospect of diplomatic relations with us.

Fatah differs from Hamas only on tactics. Its goals are the same as Hamas' goals: To end the existence of the Jewish state and the presence of the Jewish people in the Jewish homeland.


At 7:42 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

There are NO Palestinian moderates. I have yet to see a Palestinian who accepts the premise of the two state solution for real and accepts Israel as the Jewish State. Not even Mahmoud Abbas was willing to do that on the eve of the Annapolis Summit last year and the West views him as a "moderate." If the fictional moderates don't accept Israel as legitimate, how do you expect the extremists to do so? Israel can never make peace with Fatah and Hamas for the simple reason that you don't negotiate the details of your own demise. Its an insane proposition.

At 8:03 PM, Blogger Naftali2 said...

There are a couple of reasons things might be different this time. And I'm not say they will be different, but they might--and that's as good as we can get.

One is the existence of Hamas--that although Israel can press Fatah when they don't act right, Hamas kills Fatah. So Fatah actually has motivation to try to provide state services and instill propriety into the areas that they control. They built their own guillotine when they were just a corrupt terror group, and they know it now. They would much rather deal with Israel than Hamas.

Second, Fatah is run by old men. It makes a difference. Really, age makes a difference.

But at the very least, Israel goes back to the same old same old. And if Fatah takes over for Hamas, and pulls the same stuff over again, then Israel will do what it does to survive, the same thing it's been doing for 60 years.

Iran seems more intransigent than Fatah, and with the lousy world economy, that could be changing too.

I'm just saying that there are some different elements this time around. We'll see how it all plays out.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Naftali, you assume the Arabs are capable of changing their viewpoint about Israel. A minority in the Arab World would certainly be prepared to make such a change. However, as long the dominant mood in the Arab World is one of hatred of Israel and having a low regard for human life, Israel is just going to have to slog on. There is no quick fix that is going to bring peace and light to the region. Not for the foreseeable future.

At 12:31 AM, Blogger J. Lichty said...

It is the Fatah as moderate myth that will forever leave us in a stalemate.

Bush started it, Sharon played along, Olmert did too, Livni believed it, and now Bibi appears to be playing along too.

Sharon first did this as penance for Bush's sidelining Arafat - and now israel is stuck with the myth. No harm you say. Israel can always just go through the motions with Fatah.

Unfortunately, now the Fatah/Abbas as moderate myth has now taken deep root in AIPAC and the US Congress, Israel's only friends in the world.

It is never going away so long as any and I mean any Fatah leader is willing to pay lipservice to the plan of phases.

We are stuck and only until (and a very big "if") Israel decides to convince Washington otherwise. Fatah will continue to reap international largesse, will continue to claim it is too weak to fight terror and will continue to demand maximal concessions while Israel ponies up more and more of them.

At 10:00 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Lichty, this war may have a blessing in disguise. Mahmoud Abbas is no longer the PA President and is highly unlikely to be re-elected. Any successor is going to be even more extreme. That's the logical outcome since extremism rules Palestinian thinking in both Fatah and Hamas. There will be no Palestinian reichlet and that's probably the best news of all.

At 1:11 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post has an editorial that explains why Fatah and the two state solution are irrelevant to the Palestinian body politic:


It notes Abbas' term expired last week and there are no true Palestinian moderates. Their culture has been marinated in anti-Jew and anti-Israel hatred to the extent that peace is a remote dream for at least another generation.

Read it all.


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