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THE HAMAS CONUNDRUM

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International Herald Tribune
 
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The Hamas conundrum
As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice moves into the final days of her Middle East trip, she still needs to come up with a way to translate the lull in the violence between Israel and the Palestinians into an opening for genuine peace negotiations.

Nobody pretends that will be easy. Hamas - which has now formed a unity government of convenience with the more moderate Fatah - still refuses to take the three steps needed to demonstrate its commitment to good-faith diplomacy: renouncing terrorism, recognizing Israel and adhering to previously negotiated agreements. And until it does, Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas or conduct serious business with the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah.

After six wasted years of Bush administration posturing, Rice appears to realize that a just, negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians is essential for Israeli security and U.S. diplomacy. But recognizing it is not enough. If serious negotiations are to begin any time soon, Washington has to help jump-start the process.

That will require Rice to be willing to talk to any Palestinian genuinely willing to discuss peace - no matter Israel's objections. Rice's clear message to all Palestinians needs to be that if their new government is ready to stop all terrorist attacks against Israel, Rice is ready to press Israel to take matching steps, like halting all settlement construction and easing onerous restrictions on movements within the West Bank that have throttled economic development and stoked almost universal anger among ordinary Palestinians.

If Hamas wants U.S. aid restored, it must meet the three conditions on ending terrorism, recognizing Israel and accepting past agreements. European governments should hold that line as well. That still leaves room for humanitarian aid delivered through nongovernmental channels, which should continue as needed.

And it also leaves room for funneling aid to government departments independent of Hamas, like Abbas's presidential security forces. That practice could be extended to those ministries not controlled by Hamas, provided the aid is kept insulated from other government accounts.

Selective assistance can be used to reward well-run ministries that steer a responsible political course. Otherwise, there is a risk that the Palestinian government will become ever more dependent on non-Western sources, like Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Rice's ultimate diplomatic goal must be to resume bilateral negotiations on trading land for peace to create a Palestinian state committed to live alongside Israel. That end result is also envisioned in a 2002 Saudi peace proposal that King Abdullah hopes to revive at an Arab League summit meeting in Riyadh later this week

The renewed Saudi initiative will not get anywhere unless Hamas renounces terrorism and the Palestinian leadership moves aggressively to stop terrorists. Rice's biggest challenge will be moving beyond the sterile cycle of diplomacy and terror. She clearly has her work cut out for her.

Copyright 2007 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

March 28, 2007
From Maurice Ostroff
To The editor
International Herald Tribune

The statement in your editorial that seeking an opening for genuine peace in the Israel-Palestinian conflict will not be easy, is unfortunately too true. (The Hamas conundrum March 27).
 
In fact, there can be no hope at all of a peaceful solution, unless the following essential factors are addressed.
 
Palestinians cannot be expected to think of peace while their state controlled media teach children to emulate suicide martyrs, video clips portray happy child martyrs in the after-world and hatred is spewed daily in mosques and schools. See http://www.israel-wat.com/spc_eng.htm.
 
Article 9 of the PLO Covenant declares plainly that armed struggle is not merely tactical, it is the overall strategy. Article 19 rejects the 1947 UN partition, thereby rejecting the Quartets proposed  two-state solution and advocating destruction of the entire Jewish state. Article 20 unashamedly deems the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate null and void.
 
Peaceful negotiation is emphatically ruled out by the Hamas charter. Article 13 states that peaceful solutions and international conferences, contradict the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement and that the only solution is through Jihad.
 
We must also ask if it is possible to negotiate rationally with a party that generates hatred based on fantasies. For example the Hamas Charter states that freemasons, Rotary clubs, Lions and similar organizations stirred the French and Communist revolutions as well as World War I, formed the League of Nations and control the world media. It promises that these organizations will be obliterated when Islam takes control. Obviously, to be realistic, any proposed solution for the conflict must take the above considerations into account.
 
The PLO and Hamas constitutions should be required reading for every journalist and politician concerned with the Palestinian issue. The documents can be viewed in English at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/plocov.htm and
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/hamas.htm

 
 
NOTE re Amendment of the PLO Constitution
(Not included in the letter to IHT due to pace limitations)

 

Although repeated undertakings have been made in the past to amend the PLO Charter, it still appears in its original form on the website of The Official Palestine Media Center (PNC), an institution under the direct supervision of PLO Executive Committee Member Yasser Abed Rabbo

 

This web site refers to letters written by the late Yasser Arafat to the late PM Rabin, Mr. Peres, President Clinton and others, stating that those articles which denied Israel's right to exist or are inconsistent with the PLO's new commitments to Israel were no longer valid. It also states that in April 1996, the Palestine National Council agreed to the abrogation of certain sections of the charter and the matter of drafting amended sections was passed to the PNC's legal committee.

 

The following statement on the PMC web site confirms that such redrafting has not yet been done as at March 2007.

 

 “no redrafted Charter has yet emerged, and the PLO executive committee meeting did not ratify the letter from Arafat to Clinton, which specified the amendments to the Charter. On the basis of this, the Israeli government is calling for the Palestine National Council to convene, stating that amendment of the Charter has not taken place. Palestinians feel that their obligation was to abrogate those sections of the Charter, which call for the destruction of Israel “ and that this obligation has been fulfilled. Furthermore, they feel that this fulfillment having been recognized by the government of Shimon Peres, this current Israeli government has no right to demand a say in what should replace the voided sections, particularly since the Palestinians had every right to expect quid pro quo “ a similar Israeli fulfillment of their contractual obligations under the Oslo Accords”.

 

 

 

 

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