Israel faces new challenge as its foes unite



The establishment of the Fatah-Hamas government this week put Israel in a delicate situation.

It has always been Israel’s firm position that it will not negotiate or deal with Hamas, because it is a terrorist organization bent on destroying Israel. This Israeli policy was fully backed by the “Quartet,” the organization including the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia, created to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

No wonder, then, that Israel reacted with frustration and anger when all around the world governments seemed to be welcoming the Fatah-Hamas government. Most hurtful in Israeli eyes was the American position. Speaking to reporters in Beirut on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry, while admitting that Hamas was a terrorist organization that continues to call for the destruction of Israel, added that “we are obviously going to watch closely what happens, but we will work with it [the new Fatah-Hamas government] in the constraints that we are obviously facing.”

Indeed, the Israeli frustration is justified. If you listen to Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Hamas in Gaza, then the intentions of the new government are clear. According to Reuters, in a rally held in Rafah (on the south tip of the Gaza Strip) on May 27, Haniyeh declared that “Palestinian reconciliation aims to unite the Palestinian people against the prime enemy, the Zionist enemy.”

Hamas, then, obviously doesn’t accept the “Quartet principles,” which could have made it a partner: Renouncing and combatting terror, recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and abiding by existing agreements.

Add to this the recent collapse of the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, and the logical conclusion is that the recent internal Palestinian reconciliation means that Fatah is drifting in the direction of Hamas, with the world turning a blind eye to this dangerous slippery slope.

There might be, however, another option — namely, that Fatah will draw Hamas closer to its way of recognizing Israel, or, if this might turn out to be too much for the Islamic radicals of Gaza, then at least of coexisting with Israel.

Maybe history can teach us something here. Last week, the Palestinians celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the PLO. On that occasion, in late May 1964, the Palestinian Charter was launched, calling for the destruction of Israel. Soon after, actions started following words: terrorist attacks, airplane hijacking, infiltration first from Jordan, then from Lebanon, war and more.

If I were a Palestinian looking back at this half century, I would ask myself what had brought me closer to having a state of my own: The armed struggle against Israel, or the willingness to sit down at the table with Israel and cut a deal?

I think that the answer is clear. Decades of harassment by the Palestinians didn’t discourage the Israelis; on the contrary. Settlements in the West Bank only flourished.

Again, if I were a Palestinian, I would have to ask myself whether it would have been better to come to terms with Israel 40 years ago, when there were hardly any Israelis in the West bank, or 20 years ago, when there were 150,000, or today, when more than 300,000 people live in Israeli settlements, some of which are too big to even think about being uprooted.

As Jews cite over the Passover feast, remembering the plight of the Israelites in Egypt: “The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.”

It was this painful coming to terms with reality that drove the PLO to gradually abandon its principles concerning Israel. First in 1988, and more so in the Oslo Accords of 1993, the PLO reluctantly recognized Israel.

When Israel complained that contrary to the Palestinian promises, articles in the Palestinian National Charter negating Israel’s right to exist had not been erased, the Palestinian National Council met on 24 April 1996 in Gaza, of all places, and voted to do so with overwhelming majority: 504 in favor, 54 against, and 14 abstentions.

Will Hamas follow in the footsteps of Fatah and the PLO? Not so fast. Hamas is motivated more by Islamic doctrine, while Fatah is more political.

However, the Hamas Islamists have to feed people in Gaza, and the fear of Israeli retaliation forces them to act contrary to their fiery rhetoric: It is little known that it is not Hamas that occasionally launches rockets toward Israel, but renegade Jihadist factions, and that when it happens, Hamas tries to curb it.

Pragmatism, then, is possible, and in our troublesome area, it is not a small thing.

I am not deluding myself that the Palestinians, either followers of Fatah or Hamas, will ever become great lovers of Zion. All that matters is that all of them accept that Israel is there to stay. Full peace may be a goal too presumptuous to achieve in our time, but a reasonable coexistence is possible. Fatah-Hamas government, then, is not only a risk; it is also an opportunity

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

Tony Lesesne


    Tony Lesesne: Overkill, and an apology

    Yes, it happens in South Florida, too — and it shouldn’t. Black men pulled over, needlessly hassled by police officers who give the rest of their colleagues a bad name, who make no distinction when a suspect has no other description than ‘black male,’ who harass residents because they can. A North Miami Beach officer pulls over a black man in a suit and tie — and behind the wheel of an Audi that simply had to be stolen, right? In another Miami-Dade city, an officer demands that an African-American man installing a vegetable garden justify why he has a shovel and seedlings. Detained for possession of cilantro? Here are five South Floridians who tell of their experiences in this community and beyond, years ago, and all too recently.

Delrish Moss


    Delrish Moss: Out after dark

    “I was walking up Seventh Avenue, just shy of 14th street. I was about 17 and going home from my job. I worked at Biscayne Federal Bank after school. The bank had a kitchen, and I washed the dishes. A police officer gets out of his car. He didn’t say anything. He came up and pushed me against a wall, frisked me, then asked what I was doing walking over here after dark. Then he got into his car and left. I never got a chance to respond. I remember standing there feeling like my dignity had been taken with no explanation. I would have felt better about that incident had I gotten some sort of dialogue. I had not had any encounters with police.


    Bill Diggs: Hurt officer’s feelings

    “I’m the first generation in my family to go to college, and if I wanted to do nothing else, I wanted to make my mom happy. I was living for my parents, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to go to work and not have to put on steel-toe boots. And here I am in Atlanta, I have finally grown to a particular level of affluence. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was a college kid, wearing a suit, driving a nice BMW going to work everyday. Can’t beat that. I would leave my house, drive up Highway 78, the Stone Mountain area, grab some coffee, go to work. So on this particular morning, there’s a cop who’s rustling up this homeless guy outside the gas station where I was filling up. I’m shaking my head, the cop looks at me. This homeless guy is there every morning. I get in my car and on to the expressway. The police officer comes shooting up behind me. I doing 65, 70. He gets up behind me, I notice he’s following me. I get in one lane, he gets in the lane, I get in another lane, he gets in that lane. He finally flips his lights on, he comes up to the car. I’ve been pulled over for speeding before, I know the drill. Got my hands up here, don’t want to get shot, and I think he’s going to say what I’ve heard before: ‘License and registration, please.’ He says ‘Get out of the car!’ and he reaches in and grabs me by my shirt. He says, ‘So you’re a smart ass, huh?’ Finally he says, ‘License and registration.’ I tell him it’s in the car. He says, ‘Get it for me!’ He goes back to his car, comes back and asks, ‘So where did you get the car from?’ I say ‘It’s a friend of mine’s.” He says, ‘Is it stolen? What are you doing driving your friend’s car?’ I finally asked, ‘Is there a reason you stopped me? You followed me, what’s up, man?’ He says, ‘I’m going to let you go with a warning, but if you see me doing what I’ve got to do for my job, don’t you ever f---ing worry about it.”

Miami Herald

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