Monday, January 30, 2012

The Middle East Sampler 1/30/2012: Hamas and Jordan

From DG:
1) Khaled in Jordan

The New York Times reports Hamas Leader Takes Rare Trip to Jordan about Khaled Meshal's recent visit to Jordan:
Jordan wants to restore relations with Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza, because the group is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Islamist allies are forming new governments around the Arab world, and because Jordan wants to remain an influential go-between in the region, especially in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Jordan does not want to damage its relationship with Hamas’s chief rival, President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, nor to anger Jordan’s allies, Israel and the United States, which consider Hamas a terrorist group.
Hamas, likewise, is eager to distance itself from the increasingly bloodstained government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, but does not want to provoke Syria or its powerful political and financial patron, Iran. 
After the Hamas delegation led by Mr. Meshal met with King Abdullah on Sunday, the royal palace issued a statement repeating Jordan’s nuanced positions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, supporting a negotiated solution based on two states and citing “the importance of unity among the Palestinians groups.”
If King Abdullah is calling for "...unity among the Palestinian groups" - a unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah - then his position is hardly nuanced. As long as Hamas is still committed to jihad against Israel (h/t Elder of Ziyon) then promoting unity is working against peace.
Khaled Hroub of Cambridge University, who studies Islamist movements, said leaving Syria fit with a “paradigm shift” in Hamas — led by Mr. Meshal, over some resistance from hardliners in Gaza — away from an armed campaign and toward less violent popular resistance to Israel.
“They have decided for the time being that nonviolence is the strategy,” Dr. Hroub said of the Hamas leaders. “The whole nonviolent strategy has shown its effectiveness: the Arab Spring has proved this with the fall of strong governments in Egypt and Tunisia. 
“With newly emerging governments in the post-Arab-Spring era, many of them Islamist, Hamas wants to be hosted and embraced and have offices in these countries, so they want to establish a distance from the old Hamas. This will make it easier for countries like Egypt and Tunisia to deal with them, without having problems with the Americans and the West.”
It's interesting that the reporter calls the Hamas leadership in Gaza "hardliners," that's usually been the description of the Syrian based leadership. The arbitrary use of  the word is meaningless in describing the different wings of Hamas. (They're both hardline.)

Dr. Hroub could be saying that Hamas's moderation is simply an external pose; his comment about "Americans and the West" suggests this.

At the end the reporter interviews an Israeli:
In Israel, Brig. Gen. Shalom Harari, a former adviser to the defense ministry on Palestinian affairs, said it had become impossible for Hamas to remain based in Damascus while the Assad government, dominated by Syria’s Alawite Muslim minority, was killing fellow Sunni Arabs.
He said it made sense for Hamas to lower its profile at a time when its Islamist allies want to be seen in a better light in the West. He said the clearest sign of Hamas’s sensitivity to changing regional winds was that it had bowed to pressure last year from the new Egyptian government to release Gilad Shalit, a captive Israeli soldier it held for more than five years. 
“The decision is to smother themselves in low profile,” General Harari said of Hamas, though he warned that the group would resume “the armed struggle, guns and bombs, when the time is right — and the time could be right within months.”
Harari is correct that Hamas is simply striking a pose because it is useful to act moderate now until the need to (pretend to) be moderate is over. And moderation, when describing Hamas is a relative term.

2) Khaled vs. Ha'aretz

An editorial in Ha'aretz Israel is using Iran to sidestep Mideast peace talks asserts:
Netanyahu might know that his refusal to present a map based on the June 4, 1967 borders and a realistic land-swap proposal is a surefire recipe for a continued freeze in the negotiations. Any rational person understands that a territorial plan of lesser scope and quality than the one the two previous prime ministers, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, presented the Palestinians is doomed to diplomatic failure and deteriorating security. But worryingly, the diplomatic process, whose purpose is to ensure Israel's very existence as a Jewish and democratic state, is being shunted to the sidelines of the political and media discourse.
Any rational person understands that if the Palestinians know that if they lose nothing by rejecting peace proposals and get Israel blamed for the lack negotiating progress, they will continue to do so. Ha'aretz is simply rewarding Palestinian intransigence.

The editorial concludes:
The death certificate of negotiations based on the two-state solution is a badge of shame for Israeli society. It's hard to understand how a society that has so impressively brought social injustice to the top of the agenda has fallen victim to our nationalist-religious leaders' criminal ploy and the irresponsible opposition's helplessness.
As noted above, there are still efforts to bring unity between Hamas and Fatah. Why isn't that a "death certificate of negotiations?" What Israeli society has "fallen victim" to, is democracy. Israeli people saw that the country's concrete and risky concessions were not met with a commensurate effort on the part of the Palestinians to come to terms, they voted against those who pushed negotiations at all costs.

It is Ha'aretz that is irresponsibly condemning Israeli society. Given the margins of Israeli society that its editors (and many reporters) inhabit, Ha'aretz is ridiculously considered an influential newspaper by many outside Israel. Its words are given weight that they don't deserve. Yet it recklessly defames the very society in which it exists.

In contrast, Khaled Abu Toameh shows some rational thought when writing about The Palestinians' Two Camps:
Yet this week, following the fifth session of Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan, where Abbas's representatives demanded a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, several Palestinian radical groups, including, of course Hamas, rushed to condemn the demand. 
The radicals announced that Abbas does not have a mandate to ask for a state "only" in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. The radicals want all the land - from the "sea to the river." They want Haifa and Jaffa before Ramallah and Gaza. 
Given the fact that the radical camp does not represent a tiny minority, it is obvious that any agreement signed today with Abbas and Fayyad will be rejected by many Palestinians. In other words, the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem will not end the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Wake up call to the editors of Ha'aretz - Iran is not a distraction and the peace process wasn't killed by Israel. Given the strength of Hamas the peace process likely won't lead to peace either.
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