Israelis must seek peace,
Until Palestinians oust
Hamas, cool heads must try to prevent the volatile situation from
BY RAY HANANIA
April 26, 2006
Most Palestinians and Israelis recognize that there is no military
option to end their conflict.
As Palestinian society continues to deteriorate, the threats against
Israel - as demonstrated by last week's suicide bombing targeting
innocent Israeli citizens - only increase.
Israelis cannot make the Palestinians go away, and Palestinians
cannot defeat Israel. Both sides can either make things worse, or
they can continue to fight for a lasting peace.
Because Israel has the upper hand, it faces the hard choice either
to contribute to the erosion of Palestinian society and reject the
Hamas-led government or to accept the fact that violence will never
go away until a real lasting peace can be achieved.
As a Palestinian, I oppose Hamas because it has violated two principles
that Palestinians who support peace believe are sacred.
Not only has Hamas driven a decade-long campaign of suicide bombings
and violence, but worse, it has used that violence to undermine
the peace process initiated by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
As an extremist Islamist group, Hamas has been driven by faith.
But as a result of its election, Hamas faces the higher responsibility
of representing the greater needs of the Palestinian people.
I am not sure Hamas, a terrorist organization, can do that. But
we have seen many terrorists transform into statesmen, and not just
in the Middle East.
Arafat was a great revolutionary who forced the world to recognize
Palestinian rights. He was not, however, a very good government
bureaucrat, and his government was plagued by corruption. Yet Arafat
was the first Arab leader to openly recognize Israel's right to
exist and to accept the inevitability of a mini-state in the West
Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Had Israel really offered to return East Jerusalem in 2000, Arafat
might have been able to enforce a compromise on the delicate issue
of the Palestinian right of return.
But all that is behind us.
Confronting Israel is the dilemma of treating Hamas as a terrorist
government or accepting its own logic, which has argued that only
a hard-line rejectionist Israeli leader like Menachem Begin, a former
terrorist, could negotiate a peace with the Arabs.
Maybe Hamas is the only Palestinian entity that can enforce a peace
accord that will be accepted by Palestinians.
Although Hamas has refused to renounce violence or even condemn
the violence of other splinter groups, the Islamic militant group
has abided by a unilaterally imposed hudna, or suspension of violence,
for more than a year. Even as religiously zealous as Hamas leaders
are, they didn't hesitate to distance themselves from the recent
tape in which al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden expressed solidarity
with their election. The leaders said their views are "vastly different"
from bin Laden's.
In contrast with Hamas' actions, what has Israel done? Israel continues
to punish all Palestinians for the crimes of a few, a policy that
is the equivalent of terrorism called "collective punishment."
So far, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has refused to use the
collective-punishment policy against the leaders of Hamas for the
suicide bombing of another splinter group, Islamic Jihad. Maybe
there is a strategy for peace in this awkward turn of events.
I am not defending Hamas. It suffers the same failure that plagues
all "rejectionist" Palestinian groups. They can prevent peace, but
they have no strategy to ever win. And violence for the sake of
vengeance is not a strategy.
There is only one real strategy to achieve peace, and that is to
not give up on peace even as the violence continues. And we have
seen that, even at the heights of the peace process, violence has
always been present.
This is not about giving Hamas a chance. It is about giving the
Palestinians a chance. It is outrageous that Hamas would not denounce
the recent suicide bombings. Yet, its failure to act responsibly
should not preclude strategies to drive Palestinians and Israelis
back toward peace.
Responsible Palestinians have condemned the violence and even Hamas'
rejection of peace. At the earliest opportunity, Palestinians should
throw the hypocrites out of office.
Until then, though, Israel can prevent the situation from worsening.
Israel should punish only those Palestinians who directly engage
Palestinians live under Israeli occupation, not the other way around.
Israel has the means to push toward peace or toward more conflict.
We don't need more violence. We need more leaders like Rabin and
Arafat who had the courage to shake each other's hand.
To achieve peace, Palestinians and Israelis must shoulder their
own burdens to make it work. We have no other choice.
Ray Hanania is former
national president of the Palestinian American Congress.
Copyright 2006 Newsday