Hamas Post Update:

Several commentators on my previous post on the Hamas victory either praised or condemned my "optimism." But note my last paragraph: "If Hamas turns out to be unwilling to turn itself into a non-terrorist movement that Israel can reasonably deal with, Israel will have no choice but to absolutely destroy the Palestinian government." I'm not a good enough fortune teller to put odds on this, but I wouldn't say that this scenario is "unlikely," assuming, of course that a Hamas government doesn't either collapse under its own weight, or lapse into fraticidal civil war with elements of Fatah unwilling to accept Hamas security control, and/or who are angry over not getting paid. Nevertheless, this may be what passes for optimism in the current situation. Meanwhile, it's imperative that the Europeans, Israelis, Americans, and everyone else cut off funding to the PA/Hamas ASAP. Perhaps when the Palestinians recognize the extent to which even their impoverished lives are dependent on the goodwill of outsiders it will sober up their remaining genocidal fantasies.

Meanwhile, WindsofChange, in a post linked by Instapundit, quotes a Jerusalem Post piece lambasting the Rabin-Peres government for this mess. While their naivete is certainly apparent regarding Arafat's intentions is clear in retrospect, my own understanding of the situation places the primary blame squarely in the lap of Bush I Secretary of State James Baker. In 1991, with the PLO and Arafat at their lowest ebb following their disastrous support for Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, and the prospect of the disappearance as a serious political force at hand, Baker decided it would be a dandy idea to resurrect Arafat and start a new "peace process" with Arafat and his PLO cronies representing the Palestinians. Obviously, history doesn't run in a straight line, and alternate scenarios were possible. But it would be very hard to say that what has happened since, up to and including the creation of Hamasistan, aren't a natural result of Baker's initial mistake.

CaDan (mail):
As stated, the policy proposed by the OP is to cut off all support for the PA--no questions asked. Is there any reason to do this, except to wreak a bit more vengeance?

Quite frankly, who else were the Palestinians supposed to vote for? The choices were the corrupt and incompetent Fatah and Hamas. I suspect we would hear the same sort of calls for vengeance and retaliation if Fatah (the sponsors of Al Aqsa) were reelected.
1.27.2006 10:52am
dbernstein (mail):
Umm, why is not giving money "vengeance?" Is Hamas presumptively entitled to your tax dollars?
1.27.2006 11:07am
Apparently a poll done in Israel has almost half, and a majority of Israelis supporting the option to talk with Hamas.
1.27.2006 11:14am
davod (mail):
Israel is made up of a politically diverse population. A large number of these actually have a guilty conscience about Israel. Others really believe negotiation is the way to go regardless of the track record of the other side.
1.27.2006 11:52am
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
my own understanding of the situation places the primary blame squarely in the lap of Bush I Secretary of State James Baker

Well, the poll cited in the above comments should put the lie to that "understanding". James Baker may have attempted to initiate the Oslo process, but he didn't complete it, stick with it for seven years of escalating catastrophe, and spend eighteen months dithering after it collapsed completely. However deluded the Palestinian public has been, the Israeli public have been in the grip of a set of delusions of their own--delusions that they are even now only just starting to emerge from, as the polls demonstrate.
1.27.2006 12:14pm
It is most doubtful that the international community will follow through on attacking those who advocate wiping Israel off the map. Recall that, in June 2005, as Israeli journalists reported, the EU was already negotiating with Hamas. See below. And this was before Hamas was the chosen leader of the PA. Does anyone believe that the EU will cut off dialogue now?
EU renews low-level meetings with Hamas

By Ze'ev Schiff
June 16, 2005

WASHINGTON - The European Union has informed the U.S. administration of a substantial shift in its contacts with Hamas. The EU decision, which surprised the Americans, allows low-level European diplomats - below the rank of ambassador - to conduct talks with Hamas representatives who are running in the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by both the U.S. government and the EU.

The EU decision reflects a political-strategic turnaround with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and constitutes the first stage toward recognition of a terrorist group that explicitly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and views acts of terror against civilians as legitimate.

Israeli representatives have exchanged harsh words with British officials on the matter, charging that this far-reaching step will weaken Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the PA itself. The EU decision grants legitimacy to a terror group ahead of the elections - a move that will lead in the future to gradual EU recognition of Islamic Jihad as well, the Israeli representatives say.

The question that now faces Israel is whether to fight against EU involvement in the implementation of the U.S.-backed road map peace plan, and whether to agree to its direct involvement in the territories. The U.S. faces a similar dilemma, on a smaller scale, as it believes that there should be no cooperation with Hamas, however indirect.

The EU decision does not demand any moves on the part of Hamas that could moderate the organization and get it to accept a resolution of the conflict with Israel through non-violent means. Such demands were made of the Palestine Liberation Organization when it first sought recognition and cooperation from Washington. Among the demands made of the PLO were a declaration that it no longer supported acts of terror and recognition of UN Security Council Resolution 242 and the State of Israel.

The EU conducted no discussion of such conditions prior to its decision vis-a-vis Hamas.

On a visit to Israel last week, U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told Haaretz that the revelation that British diplomats had met recently with Hamas mayors did not reflect Britain's general policy. Straw, who was among those who led the move to include Hamas on both Britain's and the EU's list of terrorist groups, said that there should be no talks with Hamas' leadership until the organization abandoned violence and recognized Israel.

In 2002, the EU added Hamas' military wing to its list of terrorist groups, but refrained from blacklisting the organization's political arm. France argued at the time that the political arm could play a role in peace talks with Israel in the future. However, following Hamas' attack on a bus in Jerusalem that left 23 people dead, EU ministers denounced the organization's political arm and charged that Hamas was a terrorist group.
1.27.2006 12:25pm
Justin (mail):
I thought we weren't about blaming Westerners for choices made by non-Westerners. Didn't we all give Kerry some good kicks in the ribcage for wanting to understand Al Queda?
1.27.2006 12:31pm
Nevermind (mail):
Umm, why is not giving money "vengeance?" Is Hamas presumptively entitled to your tax dollars?

No more than Israel is. Honestly, I've never understood what strategic interest we have in getting involved in this mess, on either side.
1.27.2006 1:37pm
Paddy O. (mail):
"I've never understood what strategic interest we have in getting involved in this mess, on either side."

Tradition, of course.
1.27.2006 2:19pm
Pitman (mail):
Why blame Baker, how about Yitzhak Shamir's rejection of the agreement which Shimon Peres came to with King Hussein in 1987. It is far from possible, or productive, to blame anyone since there is probably plenty to go around. Also, historical events do not have to necessarily have their origins in the actions or policies of a single person or government.
1.27.2006 3:24pm
Quite frankly, who else were the Palestinians supposed to vote for? The choices were the corrupt and incompetent Fatah and Hamas.
And some Americans whine about having to choose between Democrats and Republicans.
1.27.2006 3:32pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
You can't blame Baker. His pursuit of the peace process served American interests (such as improving relations with Arab governments in the Middle East, and reducing the possibility of anti-American terrorism) at the time quite well, which is what his job was.

The fact that it might not have been in Israel's interest was really pretty irrelevant to Baker, and rightfully so.

I am not totally comfortable with this sort of argumentation (because it brings to mind the old "dual loyalties" libel against American Jews), but really, you have to be careful to assume that everything that was a bad idea for Israel was also a bad idea for the US. They are two different countries and they don't always have the same goals.
1.27.2006 4:57pm
I wouldn't give the Hamas government any money, but I wouldn't have given the PA any money either. I don't profess to know much about the Mideast situation, but I do find it nauseating to underwrite corruption, and to subsidize a terrorist group that spoke out of both sides of its mouth, but with one voice when it came to betraying the Palestinians it professed to represent while despositing most of the aid money in their own Swiss bank accounts.

If there are two doors, and one you know one leads to nowhere, optimism is hoping the other door will lead to something good.

Personally, if I ruled the world, the first thing I would do is to put tape over the mouths of all the irresponsible warmongers who are calling this "the blackest day in Israeli history."

If this is the blackest day in Israeli history, why do half of the Israelis, the people really suffering through all of this neverending hostility and terror, consider talks with Hamas an option?

From what I read, despite their hateful words Hamas has not engaged in any terrorism for the last three years. Is this true? If so, I personally would consider it progress if they continued to refrain from any terrorism, acted responsibly and democratically in improving the lives of the Palestinians, treated Israel with respect, and kept mum on whether they would accept Israel as a state.

In fact, who really cares what they consider a state, or what they don't? I would think that is a matter more of concern to the power brokers, and the people through whose hands all the money gets passed.
1.27.2006 7:04pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Dilan, I don't know where you got the idea that I was arguing that what Baker did was solely bad for Israel. The PLO was no friend of the U.S., either, and the point was not that the U.S. shouldn't have pushed the peace process, even if Israel was reluctant, but that the U.S. shouldn't have made a rehabilitated Arafat the centerpiece of its plan for stabilizing the Israel-Palestinian situation.
1.27.2006 9:22pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate that you are trying to say that the process was bad for the US, not simply bad for Israel.

The problem was, there's no way to encourage a peace process in situations where there has been terrorism without "rehabilitating" terrorists. One could make the same criticism that you make of the Northern Ireland peace process-- Gerry Adams and the IRA certainly had a lot of blood on their hands-- but it has worked better.

Baker gambled that perhaps Arafat would give up on terrorism to become a statesman. He lost. But merely being willing to gamble improved our relations with several Arab countries, so the game may have been worth the candle anyway. Certainly the fact that Arafat turned out to be everything his critics feared doesn't prove otherwise.
1.28.2006 4:47pm