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June 08, 2014 8:41 AM “Hamas” is not a Magic Word

By Martin Longman

It really doesn’t matter whether it is Bibi Netanyahu or opposition leader Isaac Herzog who is referring to Hamas as a “terrorist organization.” No one listens to them anymore. The word “terrorist” is supposed to close down all conversation and remove the requirement that anyone use their brain. It worked for a very long time. But it isn’t working anymore.

When Hamas was founded in 1988, their charter called for the liquidation of Israel. But many things have happened since 1988, including the fact that Hamas leaders have declared their willingness to negotiate over a two-state solution. Rather than see this as a clear sign of moderation and progress, both Netanyahu and Herzog keep railing against the international community for their willingness to recognize a national unity government in Palestine that includes Hamas.

Back in 2010, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told Prof. Robert Pastor of American University that the Hamas Charter “is a piece of history and no longer relevant, but cannot be changed for internal reasons.” Meshaal isn’t just random dude, he was the target of the most infamous assassination attempt of Netanyahu’s first stint as prime minister in 1997.

It would indeed be a problem if the Israelis were to make a deal with Fatah that Hamas did not recognize. That is why it is highly preferable that Hamas and Fatah reconcile to the degree that they can negotiate as one entity. That is what they have done. But, instead of seeing this as a condition for peace that has been met, we get foolishness like this:

Netanyahu had called on the international community to stand up against what he described as a government backed by a terrorist organization, but instead the US led the world in making clear that it would work with the new Palestinian government, and the EU, the UN and much of the rest of the international community quickly followed suit…

…In comments earlier in the week, Herzog had blamed the US and EU recognition of the Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government on the “complete collapse of Israeli foreign policy” under Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. “Netanyahu and Liberman failed to understand the international arena,” he said.

“Netanyahu speaks [but] the world doesn’t listen,” said Herzog Wednesday, adding that the prime minister’s failure to lead a diplomatic process “let Hamas into the West Bank through the front door.”

Herzog warned that if Netanyahu did not act on the diplomatic front, “Israel will lose the support of the international community and the ability to preserve [Israel] as a Jewish and democratic state.”

“Hamas” is not some magic word that shuts down the cerebral cortex of the international community. Herzog may be scoring political points on Netanyahu with his tough talk, but no one else is going to listen to this nonsense. What Herzog is offering isn’t a material improvement over what Netanyahu has offered, which is nothing.

I can’t think of a less productive political debate than one that tries to point blame for the international community recognizing the legitimacy of a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. Without Hamas there could never be a hope for a peace agreement that would be honored. Do you remember who finally made peace in Northern Ireland?

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