Photo: Reuters
What have you done for them lately? Mashaal
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Chaim Tzach
They're the ones who suffer: Palestinian kids
Photo: Chaim Tzach

Time is up

Hamas leaders must make the choice to moderate and to make decisions that will benefit the people

It has been said time and again that there is no logic or reason or rationale to the to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This observation certainly seems to describe the lunacy of recent events and underscore as well the tragic madness of Hamas and other militant groups in believing they can defeat one of the world's mightiest military machines with empty slogans and firecrackers.  


It is not that Israel is always right and the Palestinians always wrong. Israel has made many mistakes, which I will address in my next article. But the simple fact is that Hamas and their followers will never enjoy the right to live a normal life if they deny to Israel the same right. In the end, Hamas will be destroyed on their own altar of pipe dreams and self-absorbed arrogance.


Advocating peace


During my entire adult life, I’ve advocated peace and reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state solution. In these pages, I’ve strongly suggested that Hamas’s leaders be given the time and the opportunity to politically adjust to their new authority, hoping, perhaps against hope, that having assumed actual power, they will take this responsibility seriously and focus on ending the suffering of their people.  


Their task has been made easier because in Israel a new government was formed with a commitment to evacuate the vast majority of the territories. The calmer atmosphere this created would make it possible to conduct peaceful negotiations with the potential of realizing most of the Palestinian dreams. But Hamas decided to squander this golden opportunity, like the many opportunities that were missed before, and once again ordinary Palestinians are the losers.


Misguided leaders


I say all this because it pains me deeply to see scores of Palestinians dying ostensibly for a cause, when in fact they are dying of despair. They are led by misguided leaders, many of whom have sold their souls to the devil to remain in the picture.  


For instance, what has Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’s political leader. What has he done recently for the Palestinian people? Sitting on his cushy chair in Damascus, far away from the misery and disdain of his people in Gaza and the West Bank, he is enjoying all the protection and amenities his Syrian hosts can offer while being financed by Iranian money.  


Mashaal is just another stooge manipulated by his Syrian and Iranian bosses, but the Palestinian people, the ordinary people, the poor the despondent, the young, and the old, are suffering from his betrayal of their real cause.  


And what of so-called "moderate" Hamas leaders, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniya? Sadly, they’ve fallen into the same trap. Wrapping themselves in green flags, trumpeting the legitimacy accorded to them by an election, they have forgotten about responsible governance. Only their utter recklessness and indifference to the plight of their own people surpasses their arrogance and self-adulation.


Mindless chutzpah


How can Hamas defy the international community but then beg for charitable aid from the same nations? How can Hamas claim the right to govern as a legitimate authority when the organization’s leaders have failed to exercise any control over their own military wing and other raging militants? How can they demand an end to the Israeli occupation when they use territories evacuated by the Israelis as staging grounds for relentless attacks against Israel? Yes, Israel is guilty of occupying Palestinian territories, but Hamas and other mindless militants are themselves guilty of prolonging the occupation by their actions.  


By what measure or means is Hamas planning to defeat Israel? Some so-called leaders of Hamas profess to be ready to die for the cause. Should not the Palestinian people know what that cause might be and if they are also ready to die for something that has brought nothing but destruction? Deep inside every Palestinian man, woman, and child knows that there is no virtue whatsoever in dying for repeated mistakes and many lost opportunities.


Lots to lose


Some cynical Palestinians would argue that violent resistance must continue because the people have nothing left to lose. Stop and think: With continued senseless violence aimed at Israel, they could lose a great deal more—not only what is left of their civil society and institutions but their long-awaited dream of establishing a viable Palestinian state.  


Rather than using the time given them by Israel and the international community to come to grips with the political and factual realities and to search for a practical solution to the Palestinian plight, Hamas’s leaders decided to join hot-headed extremist militants. By abandoning the 16-month ceasefire, Hamas’s leadership reinforced their image as terrorists in defiance of logic, time, and circumstances. As a result, they have not simply lost irretrievable political ground but their moral authority to lead their people and with that their electoral mandate.


The time is now for the Palestinians to sort out what they really want and who should lead them to the Promised Land. Mr. Haniya’s call for a mutual ceasefire is the only way that will allow Hamas’ leadership to get out of the current morass - provided that the ceasefire is comprehensive, fully enforced and continuing. That is, a ceasefire on which to build blocks of confidence rather than provides a respite for rearming and preparing for the next loosing battle. 


Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU and is the Middle East Project Director at the World Policy Institute, New York. Web:


פרסום ראשון: 07.11.06, 10:14
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