Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is the US moving closer to Hamas?

Is the US moving closer to Hamas?    by  Zalman Shoval

Clouds have formed on the U.S.-Israeli diplomatic horizon, almost without our noticing. Whereas our prime minister has made it abundantly clear that a Palestinian government that includes Hamas cannot be a partner for peace, U.S. officials have said that the administration does not oppose the Doha declaration -- that is, the agreement brokered by the Qatari king on Feb. 5 between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal.

Everyone knows that tornadoes start small, and we need to stop this one before it spirals into a massive storm. Washington’s statement, to the effect that it does not oppose the declaration, is no doubt reserved. And it is further conditioned on the terms set by the Middle East Quartet, including that Hamas must halt terrorism and abide by existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, which implies it must recognize Israel. But not only would such recognition not be explicit, Hamas has no intention of changing its basic ideology, which brazenly calls for Israel to be removed from Islam’s Middle East domain.

The Doha agreement has elicited outrage not just in Israel, but in Jordan as well. The kingdom fears radical Islamic forces could gain ascendancy in its back yard. On top of that, the intra-Palestinian agreement could undermine the agreements and arrangements Jordan has signed with Israel, which serve as a linchpin for its national security doctrine. This makes the U.S. stance all the more perplexing as it could be interpreted as a stamp of approval for Hamas, at least to some degree. Just as it has proven time and again, when it comes to the Middle East, the U.S. just doesn’t get it.

Last week the Financial Times published an Op-Ed by female Somali freedom fighter Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who now lives in the U.S. Ali reminds the West, and Americans in particular, that those who warned a year ago that the so-called Arab Spring would not result in democracy and enlightenment but rather in the rise of political Islam, were in fact right. Just like there is no such thing as a good Taliban (the U.S. has been engaged in talks with the mullahs), there is no such thing as a good Hamas. Ali claims that Islamist forces in Arab nations will continue sweet-talking the West, deceiving it until they have an uncontested grip on the reins of government everywhere.

Does the soft rhetoric on Hamas stem from the overall delusional wishful thinking that has taken hold among some in Washington when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamicism in general? This may very well be the case. There are already some in the U.S. capital who wholeheartedly believe the Arab Spring currently unfolding is a vindication of President Barack Obama’s policy and his 2009 Cairo Address. Consequently, they will not let facts get in the way of their self-congratulation.

There is still time to disperse the gathering clouds and prevent Washington from changing its position on Hamas. This can be accomplished by engaging the U.S. Congress or the Obama administration, both politically and diplomatically. We can assume that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address this issue when he arrives in Washington for talks soon.

With the U.S. election cycle in full swing, this might actually be an opportune time to float Israeli diplomatic initiatives in coordination with Washington. Even if they go nowhere due to Palestinian rejectionism, at least it will be clear who really killed the chances for peace.