Saturday, March 15, 2008

Opening the Door to Hamas

By Ali Gharib, IPS

"WASHINGTON, Mar 14 (IPS) - Undermined by recent violence, the U.S.-brokered Palestinian-Israeli peace process laid out in Annapolis, Maryland is in critical condition. And bringing the militant Islamic group Hamas into the fold could be the only way to save the faltering plan -- an idea that even the George W. Bush administration may be reluctantly conceding is a necessary step.....

"I can notice a slight change in the attitude of the Bush administration to the idea of engaging -- even if indirectly and implicitly -- Hamas in order to have a ceasefire in Gaza," said former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami at a conference at the New America Foundation. "They understand that Gaza can undermine Annapolis. And without a ceasefire in Gaza, Annapolis is doomed."

"Such a ceasefire needs to be seen, in my humble opinion, as the beginning; as a situation that might unleash a process leading to the gradual incorporation of Hamas into the wider peace process," he said, hoping that a reunited Palestinian Authority (PA) will legitimise the Annapolis talks.....

At the New America conference, Daniel Levy, the director of the foundation's Middle East Initiative and a former Israeli negotiator, laid out a potential plan for a comprehensive ceasefire package that includes easing the siege, recognition of Hamas governance, and encouragement of a Palestinian national dialog to create a unity government.

Levy questions whether Abbas on his own has the political strength to create and enforce an agreement that would satisfy both societies in conflict.....

But Levy proposes that the climate of violence and Abbas' weakness might prevent a deal from getting done in the first place.

"Either it gets torpedoed because of the security reality, or Abbas simply looks around and sees that no one's behind him," said Levy, questioning Palestinian society's faith in Abbas and the legitimacy of his leadership.....

"You have such a wide consensus in Israel if the sense that the Israelis will have is that they did not just sign and agreement with the Sheriff of Ramallah -- that on the other side there is somebody that can deliver. Otherwise they will say 'Why should I remove settlements if on the other side we don't have someone that can legitimise an agreement for his people?'" said Ben-Ami......"


I think that Israel has already decided to dump Abbas; that is clear. However, Hamas has to be very careful about being lured into the "peace process;" that would be a trap, which I hope that Hamas will avoid.

Israel, as usual, wants to buy more time to create facts on the ground and to colonize most of the West Bank. For that they need to recycle the PA leadership. Pretty soon Marwan Barghouti will hear a knock on the door of his prison cell with a high-ranking Israeli official escorting him out as the "new Palestinian President." He will be hailed as the Palestinian Nelson Mandela. However, Mandela he is not; he will do Israel's bidding since he is perceived as a "strong" leader who could deliver.

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