Wednesday

Hamas and Israel - Soup and Sandwich or Oil and Water in the Peace Process?

Shakespeare had said, "All the world's a stage and we are all just players on it". There is probably a great deal of truth to that, both for individuals and even as nations on a global scale. Traditionally, the United States played the role cast to the guy with the strong chin and white smile who would ride in to save the damsel tied to the train tracks in the nick of time. It a role we played well because we in America saw ourselves in that light. Our proud heritage as independent and rugged with a deep sense of fairness and desire for freedom for all allowed us to play the part with such enthusiasm that we succeeded more often than not in anything we put our minds to. We were the skeptics, the one's whose eyes couldn't have the wool pulled over.

That rugged independence has faded and our willingness to go it alone out of principle has given way to fear. We are afraid other nations won't like us, so we placate them with the language of rhetoric, thinking we can change the way we are thought of. Even old friendships are being sacrificed to secure what we believe will be improved relations with nations that, in spite of the price we are paying, will continue to hate us.

This last week, Former President Jimmy Carter traveled to Gaza in an effort to talk with the Hamas leadership concerning the acceptance of the proposed 2 state solution to the Palestinian conflict. During this trip, former President Carter was honored by the Palestinian Authority government and pledged support for the Palestinians' campaign for independence "to the end of his days." Carter's recommendation included sharing Jerusalem as a dual capital for both Hamas and Israel. In Carter's opinion, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is impossible without involving Hamas.

Even Barak Obama, on his recent visit to Cairo indicated the need for the dual state adding, "America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings." Obama called for a freeze on building in the Israeli settlements as part of his roadmap to peace. In reference to that same speech, Jimmy Carter said that, "in the future, I am sure, he will call for the dismantling of the settlements that exist."

While the president's speech was received by some Arabs as a radical change in America's policies toward Middle East affairs, eight Palestinian factions based in Damascus and Syria, including Hamas, respondedsaying, "Obama's speech is an attempt to mislead people and create more illusions to improve America's aggressive image in the Arab and Islamic world." Ascribing this statement to radical factions might be true, but Hamas is the radical faction that will sit at the negotiating table in talks with Israel.

This same Hamas is the group responsible for the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, June 25th, 2006 on the Israeli side of the border. This 23 year old corporeal in the IDF was the first soldier captured by Palestinian forces since Nachshon Wachsman in 1994. Corporeal Shalit (now promoted to staff sergeant) holds French citizenship as well as Israeli. Hamas has barred the International Red Cross from seeing him and is demanding the release of 450 Palestinian prisoners for his release. Sound like a reasonable group to negotiate with?

Hamas took over the Gaza from the Fatah (a more moderate ruling faction) in June of 2007. Between June of 2007 and June of 2008, Israel was struck by a total of 1,508 rockets and 1,799 mortar bombs by Hamas operating in Gaza. These attacks were indiscriminate and not aimed at military targets, killing or injuring several civilians. The picture at right is of a playground in Kibbutz Beeri where a rocket landed, wounding two girls, age two and 12 years. The day after the attack on the playground, eight year old Osher Twito and his brother Rami, 19, were seriously wounded when a Kassam rocket fired by terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip exploded as they were walking on a street in Sderot on Saturday evening. Doctors were forced to amputate one of Osher's legs, but were able to save the second.

The point here is simple - Israel would like nothing more than to negotiate a peace settlement with it's Arab neighbors. The question is, can there ever be any serious negotiation with organizations such as Hamas or Hezbollah who control the areas adjacent to Israel and are both supported by the governments of Iran, Syria and Jordan?

Reading the Charter of Hamas, it becomes clear that a negotiated peace might be impossible as long as they are in power. Here are some excerpts from the Charter (or Covenant):

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up."

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and the international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

Some suggest that the rhetoric of the Charter is not to be taken as seriously now, at it was written before Hamas took on a more political role in it's affairs. But, just this year, on January 2nd 2009, the Hamas leaderFathi Hammad stated in Gaza, "we will not rest until we destroy the Zionist entity."

These are the people with which Israel must negotiate and who honored President Carter for his efforts to help them.

Then there is Hezbollah (literally, "the party of God"). Here is a cordial group to have at the negotiating table. The "Hezbollah Program" (much like the charter of Hamas), published February 16, 1985, has some friendly thoughts concerning the United States as well as Israel; "We combat abomination and we shall tear out its very roots, its primary roots, which are the US. All attempts made to drive us into marginal actions will fail, especially as our determination to fight the US is solid."

The last section of the "Program", which is in many cases not reproduced for reasons that will become obvious, is titled, "The Necessity for the Destruction of Israel." It states in part:

"We see in Israel the vanguard of the United States in our Islamic world. It is the hated enemy that must be fought until the hated ones get what they deserve."

"We vigorously condemn all plans for negotiation with Israel, and regard all negotiators as enemies, for the reason that such negotiation is nothing but the recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. Therefore we oppose and reject the Camp David Agreements, the proposals of King Fahd, the Fez and Reagan plan, Brezhnev's and the French-Egyptian proposals, and all other programs that include the recognition (even the implied recognition) of the Zionist entity."

We are left with very few options in the muslim world while these organizations remain and continue to be supported by their Arab neighbors. I am in no way suggesting that an agreement cannot be reached which allows for the co-existence of Israel and other Arab nations. The difficulty, stated from their own documents, is that as long as we continue to treat these groups as legitimate organizations and as long as the other nations in the Arab world continue to support them, there can be no true peace in the Middle East.

I am curious now, especially since the Cairo speech by President Obama, why it seems we are trying to pressure Israel to give up more, that they need to show a willingness to negotiate - and this, with those who have sworn their very destruction without regret. Israel and the United States have a long history as allies, yet in these times of "change" and "hope", we seem to desire friendship with nations that have opposed us at every turn. I believe that any hope for a Middle East peace can only exist after we recognize where the impasse lies. We must be able to admit plainly that the impediment to peace lies not in Israel, but in those organizations whose desire for domination reaches all the way to our shores. Not only do we need to be able to identify clearly those who stand in the way of peace, but those Arab nations with whom we have good relations need to stand with us, united against the radical islamist extremism of these rogue states.

I do hope that part of the "change" brought about by this administration does not include turning our backs on the one true friend we have in a region of the world beset by trouble.

Pray for the peace of Israel and let me know your thoughts.

Terry

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