Talking to Hamas - The Ha'aretz Position
Ha'aretz has come out very strongly in the last couple of days in favor of beginning dialog with Hamas. This opinion relies on the Prisoners' Declaration, which offers a plan for Palestinian unity and a basis for a Palestinian goverment of national unity's negotiation positions. These are negotiating positions, and thus are open to discussion. They are not final declarations.
Israel's demand that Hamas give up its entire platform (resistance to occupation, non-recognition of Israel, release of prisoners, right of return and so on) is absurd. As Gideon Samet says in an op-ed today:
"As if there ever was an organization that when fighting for independence volunteered up front, before any negotiations, to give up all its principles."This op-ed, by the way, is very much worth reading. It does an excellent and very coherent job of pointing out the absurdity of Olmert's position.
While we're on the subject, the Ha'aretz editorial today points out that it is extremely hypocritical of Israel to refuse to talk to Hamas after allowing it to run in the elections. Yes, by the way, Israel did allow Hamas to run. It could very well have not allowed the elections to go ahead with Hamas's participation.
The particular method Ha'aretz chose to illustrate this point is the recent decision by the Minister of the Interior to expel to the West Bank Hamas members of parliament from East Jerusalem. This, again, makes no sense: Israel could have (and probably did) anticipate these MP's being elected. As the editorial points out:
"Those who approved Hamas' participation could have foreseen that a Hamas candidate from East Jerusalem might be elected. The four candidates for expulsion (three of whom are PA ministers) acted in accordance with the rules laid down by Israel and the international community, which supervised the elections. They are not accused of personal involvement in terror. They did not hide their affiliation with Hamas, which was a legitimate party in these elections. Thousands of East Jerusalem residents voted for them and view them as their elected representatives. It is possible to argue that "democratic elections" in which a terrorist organization participates are by definition not democratic, but such an argument cannot be raised after the fact."I applaud this stance by Ha'aretz. Eventually, Israel will negotiate with Hamas. I don't doubt that. Ha'aretz is the first newspaper to understand this. Furthermore, it is taking a bold stance by supporting it early in the game.
An aside: the cartoon in Ha'aretz today shows Amir Peretz (Minister of Defence and head of the Labor party) in a tank
The two people standing next to the tank are two other Labor ministers. They are saying 'I thought you said the person, not the tank, was in the center'. He replies: 'I meant that the person is in the center of the tank'.
The cartoon refers to Peretz having said that the core of his agenda, even as Minister of Defence, is a social one. Since being appointed, he has acted far to the (political/military) right of his stated position. Many Labor voters are already disillusioned with his hypocracy. To their surprise, he argued strongly against cutting the defence budget in favor of social programs. So much for the economic 'left'. What a surprise....