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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

Hamas, Likud, and the Obama Quest for Peace in the Middle East

Will Hamas agree to recognize Israel? I will argue that this question is much less significant for the Obama Administration than observations one can make by monitoring the behavior of Hamas. Evidence shows that the movement is responsive to change. When Israel pulled out of the Gaza strip significant Hamas reciprocated by: (1) halting the tactic of suicide bombing; (2) agreeing to run in an election under the umbrella of the Oslo Accord-created Palestinian Authority; (3) reaching out to Fatah to form a national unity government; (4) negotiating indirectly with Israel, and, for most part, keeping its commitment; (5) acting with eagerness to engage the international community, and (6) sending consistent messages through emissaries that Hamas will entertain a land for peace settlement in which they are excluded. Hamas leaders are hardly a group of isolated militants who will not compromise to achieve peace. They have given assurances to Arab leaders that they will go along with a two-state solution.

What may prove harder for President Obama’s quest to achieve Middle East peace is the refusal of the coming Israeli government to agree to withdraw to the 1967 borders—a central element of the 2002 Arab peace plan endorsed by the Road Map and President Obama. Given that the Israeli public has reacted to the 2006 Palestinian election that brought Hamas to power, the Obama Administration will have to choose between three main options: (1) go along with a new Israeli drive to dislodge Hamas from power, a scenario that is rife with annihilationist possibilities for the people of Gaza and carries serious setbacks for the position of the U.S. in the region; (2) face Israeli intransigence through words without deeds to keep face with Arab regimes, which won’t be tenable if the Israelis use disproportionate force against the Palestinians; or (3) take a bold move toward Hamas and new the Israeli government—threatening serious repercussions if they do not agree to negotiate peace directly, without preconditions. The last option, despite the possibility that it may delay final results, is best option for the long-term: it forces the spoilers of the peace process to face each other politically in a process managed actively by an American administration determined to achieve what can be accomplished: a long-lasting peace.


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