Talking to Hamas

Good morning everybody,

For sure you have heard about former US President and Nobel Peace Price Winner Jimmy Carter’s attempts to make friends with radical Hamas, Israel steaming with rage and the pro-Israeli Blogsphere cursing him for pretty much everything from treason to being an outright idiot.

Just as a background for those of you who are not into Isreali politics, for I know it can be rather bewildering. (Actually it still is are after you have read two newspapers a day for half a year): There are two major parties within the Palestine Authority (PA) – the Gaza-Strip and the Westbank – one of which being Fatah and the other one Hamas. Fatah is basically what came out of Arafat’s peace ideas after PLO. Hamas is what took PLO’s former place as a group on European Union’s list of “Terrorist Organisations”. Fatah is considered the one to talk to for they are at least willing to negotiate with Israel whilst Hamas has been conceived as off-limits for talks for it does not recognize the pure existance of medinat ysrael (the State of Israel). Unfortunately Hamas won the elections puttng a lot of states into a considerable dilemma: Do we give money to a registered terrorist organisation? Most didn’t or did only transfer money and goods to Fatah bypassing Hamas which – of course – led to rage within the Palestinian population who felt betrayed by the ‘Western World’ who had first pushed for elections and now didn’t respect their outcome and Hamas as an elected governing party of the PA.

In late spring 2007 the coallition between Hamas and Fatah broke in a rather bloody way: Hamas’ militias took control over the tiny Gaza strip by – literally! – hanging Fatha-members out on houses to dry. From that day on homemade Qassam rockets have been fired at Israel on a dayly basis yet Israel had back its prefered partner for negotiation – Fatah – in the Westbank.

Hamas since has been isolated. It seems like people would rather talk to al’Quaida then to Hamas. And this is where Jimmy Carter enters the stage meeting Hamas officials in Ramallah and publicly announcing that he wants to speak to Hamas and “get them into the peace process”. He even wanted to go to Gaza but was denied entry by Israel. But for there’s still enough other countries arround he is now going to meet Hamas’ Mahmud Sahar and Said Siam in Cairo in order to

“get him to agree to a peaceful resolution of differences, both with the Israelis … and also with Fatah. Since Syria and Hamas will have to be involved in the final peace agreement, they ought to be involved in the discussions leading up to … peace,”

Carted added:

“I’m just trying to understand different opinions and communicate … between people who won’t communicate with each other.”

Whilst I can understand people being out of their minds with rage, considering that Jimmy Carter led to the 1976 peace threaty between Israel and Egypt and him being a rather skilled diplomat I cannot help but think: “Let him have a try!” If he can make Hamas and Syria talk to Israel, why not? If not the whole world will have a place in the front row seeing that even when a Jimmy Carter made the effort Hamas wasn’t ready to talk. I think there should be no means untried to get Sderot out of fire and having a skilled senior diplomat talk to Hamas is less risky then taking back the whole strip by means of military force – which seems to slowly become the only alternative. After all one should assume Carter has some kind of an idea what he is doing and I cannot keep myself from admitting that an enduring peace for Israel (and Syria, and die PA) will have to involve not so easy to talk to parties as Hamas and Syria too.

Yet it is a risk since Palestinians are know for their very dramatic and great working public diplomacy. There has to be taken huge precausion that Sahar / Siam et al. don’t turn the publicity Carter gives to them into a strage where they might feature another issue of the well-known play of “How Israel is an Apartheid Regime and does an Holocaust to the Palestinian People”.

But then Carter isn’t new to the game either so he might be capable of seeing that problem, too. Plus for no one can stop him anyway – though a lot of people would certainly like to – being optimistic once more is the best solution I can see. In the end if Carter suceeds keeping one child alive – either Palestinian or Israeli – it’s already been worth it.



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