Wednesday, July 12, 2006

# Posted 8:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAMAS' BOLD PEACE INITIATIVE. (WELL MAYBE, SORT OF, POSSIBLY...) What an unusual column in the Post yesterday by Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyeh. It provided the usual anti-Israel rhetoric and then this:
If Israel is prepared to negotiate seriously and fairly, and resolve the core 1948 issues, rather than the secondary ones from 1967, a fair and permanent peace is possible. Based on a hudna (comprehensive cessation of hostilities for an agreed time), the Holy Land still has an opportunity to be a peaceful and stable economic powerhouse for all the Semitic people of the region.
Try and decipher that one. Permanent peace? Or hudna? And what exactly is a "core 1948 issue"? Does that refer to the Palestinians' "right of return"? Or to the existence of the State of Israel?

Haniyeh does provide some further details which don't necessarily make things any clearer:

Palestinian priorities include recognition of the core dispute over the land of historical Palestine and the rights of all its people; resolution of the refugee issue from 1948; reclaiming all lands occupied in 1967; and stopping Israeli attacks, assassinations and military expansion.

Contrary to popular depictions of the crisis in the American media, the dispute is not only about Gaza and the West Bank; it is a wider national conflict that can be resolved only by addressing the full dimensions of Palestinian national rights in an integrated manner.

This means statehood for the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in Arab East Jerusalem, and resolving the 1948 Palestinian refugee issue fairly, on the basis of international legitimacy and established law. Meaningful negotiations with a non-expansionist, law-abiding Israel can proceed only after this tremendous labor has begun.

That almost sounds like a negotiating stance. I'm not sure how one would go about recognizing a "core dispute", but the rest of the agenda seems very much like what was on the table during the Barak-Arafat negotiations at Camp David and Taba.

Finally, I think it's worth taking note of this passage, that comes right near the beginning of Haniyeh's column:
Israel wants to sow dissent among Palestinians by claiming that there is a serious leadership rivalry among us. I am compelled to dispel this notion definitively.
What does that mean? Recently on PBS, NYT correspondent Steven Erlanger observed as a simple matter of fact that there is a major split between the West Bank/Gaza and Damascus leadership factions in Hamas. Apparently, Damascus ordered the attacks on Israel that have led to the recent fighting. So where is Haniyeh's peace offer coming from? The West Bank and Gaza? Damascus? Both? Neither?
(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

"Contrary to popular depictions of the crisis in the American media, the dispute is not only about Gaza and the West Bank;"

what we in the nefarious, "likudnik" Israel lobby have been saying all along. The dispute is not only, or even primarily about the territories, but about Israel's right to exist.
Hamas is offering a negotiating stance, a place to begin discussions. The injustices of 1948 will not simply die away. They must be addressed. While the refugees will almost certainly not be allowed to return to what is now Israel, their suffering must be acknowledged and some, even token, recompense made.

The ball is in Israel's court. It is time to talk.
Notice that Haniyeh puts quotation marks around the word "kidnapped" when he refers to the Israeli soldier seized from sovereign Israeli territory. But when he talks about the Hamas legislators kidnapped by Israel he removes the quotation marks. I'm surprised that got by the WaPo editors.
This is not about Israel's right to exist. This is about extending the right to dignity, life, and justice to a people terrorized by the Israeli state. As an American who has lived in the region, I am appalled at the conditions the Palestinians live under and am disgusted by the inaction of the West to alleviate the suffering of an entire people.
I must disagree with Pamela. The referral to 1948 is definitely code, to sound reasonable to Western ears but to maintain their stance of total non-compromise. When Israel is Arab majority after the so-called right of return is implemented in full, then negotiations can begin, is basically what he is saying.

And they have already been offered far more than a "token" recompense. The Palestinians were offered $30 billion (with a 'b') in compensation in the 2000 talks. They turned it down. I'd imagine any future negotiations would start from a point not far from there, probably higher.
The ball is in Israel's court. It is time to talk.

From the look of the action on the ground in the last few days it seems as if the time to talk has passed.
The Oslo framework already included the discussion of the rights of refugees as an issue for negotiation. IF Hamas truely is referring to that when they say 1948 issues, and wants to discuss refugee compensation, etc, then all they have to do is do what Fatah did - recognize Israels right to exist, renounce terrorism, and accept the Oslo accords in full. Then they are in the same position as Fatah was, and negotiations can begin.

As long as they have not done so, and resist pressure to do so, it seems clear to me that to them the 1948 "issue" is Israel's existence, and that there is no basis for negotiations.
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