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The Prospects of Palestinian Statehood and Peace After Hamas' Electoral Success: Challenges of Hamas victory and ways out
We are pleased to present this illuminating analysis of Palestinian thinking about the Hamas. It represents an attempt by a moderate Palestinian to attempt to fit the Hamas victory into the rubric of dialogue and rapprochement, leading to the two-state solution that we think is the only hope for both Palestinians and Israelis. The problem with all such approaches is that they are attempting to square the circle. It seems there is no path to peace with Hamas while Hamas leaders continue to assert that it will never make peace with Israel under any circumstances. Ahmed Yousef proposes a pause for peace in the New York Times, but Khaled Meshaal, Ismail Haniyeh and others continue to insist there can never be peace. We should not ignore harbingers of change, but we can't ignore what Hamas leaders say most consistently.
The only policy that offers hope of changing Hamas intransigence seems to be continuation of the international boycott. Unfortunately, the boycott as implemented is hurting the Palestinian people selectively, while Hamas itself finds ample sources of funds to purchase arms and maintain its "security" organizations. It may also be wishful thinking to hope that in present circumstances, the US will be willing to launch a new foreign policy initiative of the type that would be required, (see here ) or that Israeli public opinion would be amenable to such an approach following the failure of the Oslo peace process. It would be good indeed if both sides could agree to the Clinton proposals and the Arab peace initiative, as Walid Salem suggests, but if they did there would not be a problem. Indeed, Mr. Arafat and the PLO did not agree to the Clinton Proposals. Had he done so, there would have been a Palestinian state today. We cannot expect that Hamas will accept what the PLO rejected. The idea of using an international force is constructive. However, the test of this international force must be its ability to restore order in Gaza first, to stop the rocket attacks on Israel as well as the internecine violence, and to disarm the terrorist groups. If the force is a success in Gaza, then the same solution can be applied to the West Bank. The jury is still out on the UNIFIL force in Lebanon, but if the relative calm of Lebanon today could be imposed in Gaza, it would be a decided improvement over the current nightmare. It is very unlikely that the Hamas can or will stop terror attacks originating in Gaza, boycott or no no boycott, Hudna or no Hudna. Since the election of Hamas, an unprecedent barrage of rocket fire has fallen on Israel, and an Israeli soldier was kidnapped on Israeli soil. All this occurred while the famous Tahidiyeh (lull) was in force and Hamas keeps threatening to break the Tahediyeh. This is the Hamas response to Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. It doesn't require much imagination to predict the response of Hamas to withdrawal from the West Bank. -- A.I.
From the moment that Hamas took power in the Palestinian Authority, three strategic approaches have been used to analyse the impact of this success on the two-state solution and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. One approach believes that both sides entered a political impasse combined with a social and economic impasse in Palestinian society. The second approach states that Hamas' success will move the Palestinians from a strategy of impotence, which did not lead to the fulfilment of Palestinian’s rights, to a strategy of Jihad and resistance, thereby securing these rights. The third approach considers Hamas' success as an opportunity that includes a challenge to move towards peace and reconciliation between Israel and possibly the entire Islamic world.
Those who adopt the impasse approach include both the average pessimistic citizen and those who want to deal with Hamas in a way that will cause it to fail in running the government (such as the Israeli right wing groups). These groups want to use Hamas' electoral success as a justification for maintaining the status quo and not making any move in the direction of ending the occupation. Rather, they prefer to deepen the occupation by methods such as disconnecting the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, creating a permanent buffer zone in Gaza, closing the Gaza Strip completely by prohibiting its residents from any movement to the outside world, and continuing to construct the separation barrier in the West Bank surrounded by new buffer zones. Other methods include preventing Palestinians from entering the Jordan valley, which represents one-third of the land area of the West Bank, expanding the population of the big settlement blocks in West Bank and taking control of all of Jerusalem, while transforming the checkpoints located in the territories occupied in 1967 into 'terminals', as if these terminals represented international border crossings. In other words, this approach (in its right-wing Israeli version) wants to exploit Hamas' success in order to give Israel a free hand in implement whatever it likes on the ground, with the justification that there is no Palestinian partner. The freezing of the Israeli realignment plan after the July 2006 war in Lebanon gave further momentum to this position.
The second approach is expressed clearly by the Islamic Jihad, the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and a part of Hamas who believe that Jihad is the shortest way to "liberate" Palestine, with the hope that the "Mujahedin" (holy warriors) from other Islamic and Arab countries will join in a "holy war" against Israel. These groups justify their approach by the failure of the Oslo peace process to provide the Palestinians with statehood; therefore they want to move from negotiations to resistance/Jihad in order to obtain to this statehood.
This second approach has different interpretations: one of them calls for full Jihad against Judaism and not only Israel (the Al-Qaeda approach); the second calls for armed struggle/Jihad to end the occupation without recognising Israel (The Islamic Jihad); and a third approach (Hamas) calls for Jihad in the broader sense which includes personal Jihad (building yourself as a Muslim), social-economic Jihad (building social solidarity between Muslims and building the economy), and political Jihad (building the Islamic political structures, steadfastness and a rejection of concessions when it comes to what are considered to be rights). In this sense, armed resistance is not itself THE Jihad according to Hamas terminology, but only a small part of it. Moreover, this small part can be, according to Hamas, frozen either temporarily through a lull (Tahdiya), or permanently or semi-permanently through a Hudna (long-term cease fire). In this regard, one should carefully note this new terminology, which the secular democratic intellectuals may not be aware of, resulting in them reaching misleading conclusions due to ignorance. It should be further noted that, according to Hamas terminology, a lull can be declared unilaterally. A lull would mean that Hamas would not initiate attacks, but would reserve the right to respond to attacks by the other side. Practically speaking, in the last two years Hamas has been the most committed Palestinian faction towards the lull with Israel, not even retaliating to the Israeli attacks on its members, which represents a difference between what Hamas says and what it practices. On the other hand, the Hudna that Hamas calls for is an Islamic term inherited from the experiences of the Prophet Mohammed. This term refers to a contract that will be agreed upon by two or more sides. Thus, the idea of the Hudna includes negotiations and conditions that would be included in the contract of the Hudna. In this sense, according to Hamas leaders, Israel can come to Hudna negotiations and ask for the idea of enacting a permanent Hudna to be included in the Hudna contract – that is, the Hudna would never expire. This Islamic interpretation of the meaning of the Hudna should be understood by the secular community, particularly because it includes an acceptance of negotiations with the other side about the content of the Hudna the moment that the other side (ie the Israelis) are ready to recognise the rights of Palestinians to statehood.
The "Threat" Versus "Challenge" Approaches Vis-a-vis Hamas' Success
The first scenario carries many risks, which are not limited to the following: first, the assumption that the people will hold Hamas responsible for the halting of international aid may be proven incorrect - people may revolt against Israel and the West, since it is they who will stop the aid, not Hamas. Second, this strategy will be accompanied on the ground by Israeli policies to retain Greater Jerusalem and build the wall, thereby reinforcing the belief that Israel is the enemy and not Hamas. Again, any possible revolt will be against Israel in the shape of a third, and very violent Intifada. Third, the assumption that the Hamas government and members will suffer because of the withdrawal of aid has absolutely no basis; smuggling money, like smuggling weapons in the last decades, Hamas and its members managed financially through all the years before their election to the Palestinian Parliament without international funding. In this case it is the Palestinian people who will suffer, because of the end of salary payments to PA staff (most of the staff are Fatah members and average citizens) and the removal of the support to education, health and social security, the three fields that receive the majority of the international funding after the salaries. Fourth, the assumption included in this scenario, of recruiting Fatah to work with Israel and the USA against Hamas, will lead to the fragmentation of Fatah between those who will cooperate with Israel, those who cooperate with the USA, those who stay neutral and those who will ally themselves with Hamas. In the event of such fragmentation, the idea of Fatah's unity replacing Hamas when the latter fails will evaporate. Additionally, the Palestinian people will hold Fatah responsible for allying with Israel and the USA against part of its people. Fifth, this scenario will also encourage internal Palestinian clashes between Fatah and Hamas, unless both of them unite against Israel.
The Opportunity-Challenge Approach
Dealing with this challenge as an opportunity will require working closely with Hamas through a positive and constructive communication process in order to gain an agreement with Hamas on many issues. The first issue is to gain recognition by Hamas of the Palestinian 1988 Declaration of Independence and political program. Second, Hamas should recognise the Arab Peace Initiative of 2003. Third, gain recognition by Hamas of the UN resolutions with regards to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Fourth, gain Hamas acceptance of previously enacted laws and the status of Shariah in the existing laws, rather than them moving towards greater Islamisation. This should include not changing the existing education laws and the laws regarding women's rights.
These issues should not be brought to Hamas as conditions or pressures, but should rather be the subjects of dialogue and patient, long-term processes of constructive communication.
A coalition of the Arab League, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and probably Malaysia and Indonesia should work with Hamas on these issues. These countries should work in co-ordination with the USA and the EU. However, it is very important to understand that the USA should refrain from exerting direct pressure on Hamas by itself, because this will be counter-productive. The USA should use the good offices of the Arab and Islamic countries mentioned above, who can work with Hamas more effectively. Israel should most definitely not interfere and try to deal with Hamas on its own.
Still, the question remains: how will a political resolution move towards a Palestinian state beside Israel?
Scenarios of a Political Move
The results of this scenario, which was supported by the leaders of the centrist Kadima Party and justified by the unwillingness to make concessions to a Hamas-led government, will include: continuation of the occupation, continuation of the separation between the West Bank and Gaza, continuation of the wall and the build up of the big settlements blocks and all the other aforementioned policies. With that, the Palestinian response will be a refusal to recognise the existence of Israel as an independent state until it recognises the same right for the Palestinians. The strong likelihood of a third violent Intifada cannot be excluded in this scenario, with the idea of Jihad gaining more support.
If this scenario is presented as an offer for negotiation with the Palestinian President Abu Mazen, and considering the aftermath of the war in Lebanon, it will be considered a non-starter; therefore Israel will either implement it unilaterally with all the results mentioned above, or remove it completely from the table.
If implemented unilaterally by Israel, this scenario might lead the Palestinians to dissolve the PA and to replace it with a National Unity leadership that will lead the resistance against Israel.
On the one hand, the Israeli disengagement process should be pushed to its logical end to become a full disengagement from the Israeli settlements (or keeping some of them while making 1:1 land swaps according to the Clinton parameters). A full withdrawal of the Israeli Army, while establishing an International, Islamic and Arabic coalition for the democratisation and moderation of Hamas and for helping the Palestinians in state building should also be part of such a plan. This coalition will include the Quartet, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. Such a coalition will not be rejected by Hamas who, in their electoral platform stressed the importance of co-operation and security coordination with "the Arabic and Islamic Nation." In this regard, it will not be surprising if Hamas calls for a reconsideration of the 1988 disengagement with Jordan, which was seen as a good move by Fatah as a Palestinian national movement, while it was seen negatively by Hamas, which considers itself to be first Islamic, second Arab and only thirdly as Palestinian.
The idea here is to use the good offices of the Arab and Islamic moderate countries to help the Israelis and Palestinians out of their impasse. From its perspective, Israel might want to withdraw for security and demographic reasons, but does not want to do so in a way that seems to grant success to Hamas, while Hamas and all the Palestinians want to end the occupation. While the two sides cannot fulfil each other's wishes for now, a third Islamic Arabic party can do it for them.
The preferred process as a response to this is an approval of Israel and Abu Mazen to the Clinton Parameters, Moratinos non-paper and the Arab League Peace Plan, followed by two referendums around the agreement. However, if the two parties fail to achieve this, they might be willing to deliver to a third party of Arabic and Islamic states.
The delivery of the West Bank and Jerusalem to the Islamic and Arab Peacekeeping force might be done in one, two or three stages. During these stages the process of building trust between the Israelis and Palestinians will be promoted in a way that will lead them to get together in order to answer the 'peace question'. The moment they answer this question, the Peacekeeping force should withdraw.
The work of this Peacekeeping force might begin after a UN Security decision that calls for its establishment. This is an option for short term arrangements and also for future reconciliation. In the case of a failure to reach a final status solution, the vacuum will be filled by a religious war whose length no one can predict.
*The current ongoing strike of the governmental employees in the PA, already two months long, although led by Fatah in order to create controversy with Hamas, still raises two slogans. One: Stop the Sanctions, directed to the Donor community, and the second: Give us our salaries, directed to the PA.
Walid Salem is the director of Panorama, the Centre for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem office. He is also the author of books and articles on such issues as democracy, citizenship, youth rights, civil society development, Israeli-Palestinian peace-building, and the right of return.
Originally published by the University of Pretoria Centre for International Political Studies (CIPS) http://www.up.ac.za/academic/cips .
Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000533.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.
Replies: 6 comments
The above article is very illuminating but flawed because it does not factor in the capacity of the Israelis to synthesis variants to their existing policies or indeed act out of character. The idea of a peace keeping force is unrealistic as there can be very few, if any nations that would be willing to commit their forces to such a body simply because the UN's track record is so poor in providing effective mandates.
Posted by Rod Davies @ 11/16/2006 10:28 PM CST
To Rod Davies
1.You make the assumption that Palestinians waste their money on weapons since when has a large portion aid gone to weapons?
2. Palestinians need to improve their government structure but that doesn't neccessarly justify Israel occupying them. Government takes time to build and to demand that Palestinians do what most countries can't do is to some degree absurd.
3. Not all Palestians are using the military option to create peace and even in a recent poll a majority Palestinians felt that peace negotiations must be used even with in order to acheive statehood. Your assumption that Palestinians support military force to achieve statehood is ovesimplification of the entire Palestinian public.
About Walid article:
Clinton did not propose a 1:1 ratio land swap in the parameters that is according to Robert Malley:
"In his December 23, 2000, proposalsâ€”called "parameters" by all partiesâ€”Clinton suggested an Israeli annexation of between 4 and 6 percent of the West Bank in exchange for a land swap of between 1 and 3 percent."
Sounds like the ratio was 1:2 not 1:1.
Posted by Butros Dahu @ 11/17/2006 08:31 AM CST
Posted by Rod Davies @ 11/17/2006 02:21 PM CST
"Not all Palestians are using the military option to create peace and even in a recent poll a majority Palestinians felt that peace negotiations must be used even with in order to acheive statehood. Your assumption that Palestinians support military force to achieve statehood is ovesimplification of the entire Palestinian public."
I think the polls show a majority of Palestinians supporting negotiations for peace, while at the same time supporting the continuation of 'armed struggle.' In fact, I believe Baraguti outlines such policy in a speech prior to the elections.
"From the political rather than military perspective a carefully stage managed unilateral withdrawl would considerable strengthen Israels hand. It would be able assert that it had complied with 242 in spite of Palestinian intransigence. From that moment onward the pressure would be upon the Palestinian to perform as a nation and the PNA as a government. As Blair made clear during the court case over the "wall", the EU and thus the UN Security Council would not challenge the right of Israel to impose a closed border with a future Palestine. The PNA would thus be placed in a position where it had the land it had demanded, but not the means to sustain the state. The PNA would then be compelled to either accept isolation from Israeli infrastructure and markets or initiate negotiations at governmental level. Even if a land corridor were to be established between Gaza and the West Bank, without access to Israel the Palestinians would face a bleak future."
a. The Israeli public opinion has shifted to the right, just as it had done after the peace process was replaced by the intifada. I doubt there will be much support for unilateral withdrawl for a few years. Worse still, the Israeli peace camp is completely unable to offer an alternative. The moderates are paralyzed and discredited. The so called radicals are burrowing deeper and deeper into a cultist mindset that is focused on clensing its own conscious by enumerating Palestinian suffering, rather than engage the Israeli public and do something to improve the situation.
b. Any withdrawl that Israel will make will not be perceived as fullfilling UN resolutions, and even if it did, the Palestinians organizations will have enough legitimacy in their own society to continue attacks against Israel. And you can be certain that the pressure on Israel to cease whatever military methods it will have used to deal with these attacks, would eventually be stronget than any pressure on the Palestinians.
Posted by Micha @ 11/18/2006 01:25 AM CST
Posted by Rod Davies @ 11/20/2006 10:59 AM CST
"no longer could the Palestinians claim that it is legitimate resistance to continued occupation"
If the Hizballa could claim legitemate resistance after a full UN sanctioned withdrawl from Lebanon, how much easier will it be for the Palestinians, especially if Israeli withdrawl is noticeably partial even as far as the 67 borders are concerned. And even if, at first, the world will accept Israeli retaliation, the inevitable death of civilians and distruction will cause them to side with the Palestinians, or at least accept any concession in order to remove the unpleasant images from their TVs.
It is also not true that the Israelis want acceptance. The Israelis are very confused people, that still haven't figured out how to reconsile their contradictory desires with what is available. They are like the Palestinians in that regard, although slightly less stupid.
I'm not saying that unilateral withdrawl might not eventually be the only option. I'm saying that:
Posted by Micha @ 11/21/2006 02:16 AM CST
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