Thursday, April 06, 2006

On Hamas and recognition

Food for thought; a piece written by Alistair Crooke, a former mi6 officer who did a lot of the back-channel diplomacy for the eu in israel/palestine during this intifada, for Propsect Magazine (it is by subscription only so I took the liberty of pasting the entire article below)

Back to 1967 'Hamas' failure to recognise Israel will not be an issue if Palestine itself is recognised'


On the face of it, the Hamas refusal to recognise Israel seems singularly
perverse; plainly Israel “exists”! Tel Aviv is a large modern city that
shows no sign of any imminent slide into the sea. To us in the west, this
posture has the taint of ideological backwardness which we often associate
with Islamist movements whom we find curiously at odds with modern
reality. Hamas, however, is neither stuck in the past nor unable “to do
politics” – as the Americans might say. What they are doing in dramatic
fashion is to put a finger on a key failure of the Israeli – Palestinian
political process since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 – which is
the singular omission of any clear outline of Palestinian rights. Hamas is
correct: the starting point for any next steps, whether political or in
terms of an extended armistice, needs this prior commitment.

What Hamas is saying in refusing to recognise Israel is that whilst the
West understands, and indeed feels, the narrative of the Jews; there has
been no concomitant recognition of the Palestinian narrative of injustice
that they feel in respect to the events of 1948 when villages and houses
were destroyed, many were killed and thousands fled to the refugee camps
where those who survive still remain. I met one of those in Sabra and
Shatila camp in Lebanon at the end of last month. This proud woman still
retained her father’s seal of office as mayor of his village from the time
of the founding of Israel and an unredeemed account owed by the British
mandate authorities for £68 – a considerable debt at that time. Hamas are
suggesting that recognition of this Palestinian narrative should take the
form of an affirmation of the Palestinian rights to a State that should
indicate its basis as Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian lands conquered
in 1967.

It may surprise readers that this is not already the case: We recognise
and repeat frequently the right of Israel to a State within secure
borders, and it might seem obvious that we have outlined Palestinian
rights to a State shaped on the basis of the lines of ’67 or the armistice
lines of ’49 which are almost identical in the Palestinian context. In
fact we have not. UN resolution 242 refers to withdrawal from lands
conquered in ’67. Israel put much effort into lobbying to have the word
“the” dropped from the sentence “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from
(the) territories occupied in the recent conflict”. Israel interprets this
to mean that the amount of land from which they withdraw is for them to
decide in any negotiations with the Palestinians.

Bill Clinton, at the time of the last Camp David talks in 2000 came close
to setting out signposts for the destination of talks when he outlined his
10 point plan. His initiative however never took substance. Similarly,
when Clinton asked Senator Mitchell to report on the causes of the
Intifada, we (I was a staff member) were forbidden by the incoming US
Administration to signpost the likely shape of a Palestinian State. Over
simplified, the Mitchell Report outlined three components to a solution:
de-escalate the violence, build confidence and start talking.

The fourth chapter, “..and talk about what?” which was the obvious sequel,
was denied to us. I recall the US official, Flynt Leverett who drafted the
“Roadmap” before it was adopted by the international Quartet of the US,
the UN, the EU and Russia told me that he had made explicit reference in
the first drafts to a Palestinian State on the basis of the lands occupied
in ’67 with Jerusalem as its capital; but twice this reference was removed
on instructions from above. Leverett has emphasised that the widely held
view that the Roadmap would lead to a Palestinian State on the lines of
‘67 has no basis in terms of the wording of the document. None of these
efforts, of course, were intended to go beyond setting broad parameters of
a State, whilst leaving the details to be settled between the parties.

Hamas is asking for this omission to be rectified. In asymmetrical
negotiations between parties of such different political weight and
military strength, it is not surprising that the party with almost no
cards to play wants to know what is on the table before they begin to show
their hand. If this is done, Hamas has said that it is able to deal with
reality of Israel in the course of this process. Indeed reality would be
hard to ignore given that Hamas wants an armistice to be fully negotiated
to include, borders, customs, passage and overflights inter alia!

Is “recognising reality” then a short-changing of Israel’s longstanding
quest for legitimacy? In one sense it is: It is unlikely that Hamas would
ever undertake to say that what happened to Palestinians in ’48 as a
result of events that happened earlier in Europe was in some way right or
legitimate. They cannot; but the wording does suggest the solution: No
observant Jew can deny God’s gift of all the Promised Land to the Jewish
people. Jews manage this by dividing time into redeemed time and
unredeemed time. In redeemed time, God’s promise will be fulfilled. In
unredeemed time, we have to deal with reality, and make compromises.
Similarly no observant Muslim can deny the Waqf, the endowment of Arab
lands dedicated to Islam, of which Palestine is a part. Thus Hamas can
accept reality, but it cannot say that Israel, and the way in which it
came into being is somehow “legitimate”.

The solution to resolving the recognition issue, and, incidentally, to
putting the political process on the sound footing that it never had, is –
as Hamas says – an affirmation of the parameters of the State to which
Palestinians have the right to aspire. This should not be impossible
obstacle to anyone with the courage to give a lead. President Bush in his
speech of 26 May 2005 in the Rose Garden at the White House said that the
Armistice line of ’49 should be the basis of talks, and that any change to
it can only come about by mutual agreement between the parties. He also
explicitly indicated that Jerusalem was to be a part of any arrangement.

Of course the Administration as usual muddied the waters of this statement
by providing side letters in a contrary vein to Mr Sharon on settlements,
and by repeated references to the Roadmap which provides for a Palestinian
State initially on provisional borders. But why not pocket Bush’s
statement? Why should Europe not take the lead on this issue? It is Europe
that recently has been bearing the brunt of Muslim anger in the Region. It
is Europe that has 20 million Muslims living here. It is our
neighbourhood: someone needs to break the mould – Hamas is right not to
recognise reality - until Europe recognises the reality too of needing to
correct this omission by outlining what is a future Palestinian State.


Anonymous ratttu said...

I personally think the 'recognition issue' is double-speak, both from Israel and Hamas. See my comments on

and apologies for any typos. It's late...

2:01 AM  
Anonymous Z said...

Lets stop revising history here.

1. The Palestinians WERE offered a state in 1948. Instead, their leaders chose war and now the people on the ground are paying the price,

2. The words "all the territories" were ommited from the 242 draft for a reason. Here are the words of the author of the resolution.

Lord Caradon, author of the draft resolution that was adopted as U.N. Resolution 242, U.K. Ambassador to the United Nations (1964-1970):
"We didn't say there should be a withdrawal to the '67 line; we did not put the 'the' in, we did not say all the territories, deliberately.. We all knew - that the boundaries of '67 were not drawn as permanent frontiers, they were a cease-fire line of a couple of decades earlier... We did not say that the '67 boundaries must be forever." (MacNeil/Lehrer Report - March 30, 1978)

3. Stop this nonsense and recognize Israel. Otherwise, more unilateral steps will be taken.


2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anon 1:37 said...

Hamas has the misfortune to be ideologically aligned with the perpetrators of the Madrid, London, Bali, New York and Wasinghton bombings.

They may have adopted a fundamentalist Islamic position as a way to rally the Palestinian people and give them some (decent) leadership, but that ideology is now seen as poison in the rest of the world. Add to that the suicide bombing tactic (beloved of Al Qaeda), and no-one in Europe or America is interested in propping up Hamas.

Hamas can look for other supports (most recently, they shamefully referred to Chechnya as an "internal Russian matter" when currying favour with the Russians) but aligning with Iran is hardly the way to win anyone else's favour, or to further the interests of the Palestians.

Right now the Israelis hold all the cards - if Hamas do nothing to repress the militants their government will disintegrate, if Hamas do not recognise Israel the Palestinan economy followed by the government will disintegrate, if Hamas fail to ratify the peace accords then Israel will be seen as justified in making war on the PA.

The ball is in Hamas' court and they don't have the luxury of anyone coming to their rescue. This is the downside of fundamentalist Islamic rhetoric - it doesn't make you any friends.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

It wouldn't surprise me if the rest of the world has a similar assessment as Mr Crooke. It's only the Americans that come up with strange interpretations of right and wrong regarding Israel. Even their politicians may only hold those views publicly. Much the same as an internal assessment of settler behaviour by the Israeli government will vary drastically with any public announcement. Jimmy Carter came up with an honest assessment of Israel recently.

As far as I know, Bush is the first President to mention a "Palestinian State", on the understanding "facts on the ground" were given to Israel as a reward for many years of encouraging natives to move away and for building apartheid settlements.

Many Israelis suporters still refuse to acknowledge the existence of Palestinians and want to actively move them away, yet "they" are to recognise Israel. Its all more delaying tactics from Israel as usual.

here is Mr Crookes website. not very user-friendly. Wish he would dump the flashmedia design

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the humiliation and distress caused by the current situation for the Palestinian people. I myself might be radicalized under such pressures. However, if I was then elected to office, the new pressures of being responsible for a state would change me again.

The Palestinians want justice and they want to be treated fairly. A pragmatic, realistic assessment might be that to accept that they will not be treated perfectly fairly. Instead, they should make friends with the world and go for as much as they can get right now, achieving a tolerable peace. Afterwards, keep on bargaining! Don't give up until the situation is satisfactory - but don't make the conditions for satisfaction some kind of final solution of total purity!

I think a responsible leader, seeing citizens starving, harassed and killed, and having seen several decades of violence amount to nothing, has to make moves to make daily life better for his or her people.

In Canada, the native people have been bargaining and negotiating for self-government rights, land-claims recognition, and other governance rights for a long time, making slow progress. They have less power than the Canadian government. Their bargaining position is weaker. The Canadian government has less power than the US government. The US often wins trade disputes and the like unfairly.

That's life, sometimes parties are not equal, and when we are the weaker ones, we won't get treated as well.

Since that is a fact, what can we do to optimize our situation as much as possible?

The simple fact is, we do not get to balance or even out every single power imbalance in the world, and we have to live well anyway. What matters more, having people die for a cause, or living well in peace under conditions that are somewhat unfair for historical reasons? At least if people are alive, they can continue to work to correct the unfairness slowly over time. Dead people lose that option.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Abu Shaar said...

Unsettling that you use Canada's treatment of their native population (you could have also used the American example) to illustrate how the Palestinian population should, what, accept their occupation and oppression?

People still have faded deeds and rusty keys from homes they lost in 1948.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just goes to show what an idiot Crooke is. A recoginzed "Palestine" that does not recognize Israel is a sure recipe for more war.

7:21 PM  
Blogger annie said...

i think it is rather clear that racsit Israel wants to create a religous war- but this "conflict" is only religous in that racsit Israel insists on wrecking the homes & lives of non-Jews... the Palestinians. I sincerley doubt that this nasty mess created by politcal Zionism is part of God's promise to any one

10:17 PM  
Anonymous annie said...

I think it is obvious that racsit Israel wants to ctreate a religous war, but the only religous aspect of this "conflict" is that racsit Israel keeps wrecking and ruinign Palesinian homes and lives. I sincerely doubt that the mess of injustice and suffering created by political Zionism is in any way actually part of God's promise to any one.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crooke is like his name. What about all the homes lost by Israelis from Arab lands? Do we see them getting compensation or their homes back?

No, there is no Arab country that welcomes a Jew to live within its borders, including the PA.

Hamas doesn't merely fail to recognize Israel, it calls for the destruction of Israel through violence against children.

muse/annie -- was there or was there not a move towards peace from 1993-2000? Did Israel or did Israel not arm the PA? Did Israel or Arafat abandon peace talks and start a new war?

The simple fact remains: if the Arabs put down their weapons there will be no war. If the Israelis put down their weapons there will be no Israel.

Knowing how to blog doesn't make you appear civilized when set up against your support of Hamas.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Calgacus said...

Z, yes we have all seen edited quotations from Lord Caradon; some of us may have even seen all of what he always said, which amounted to 'full withdrawal with minor border adjustments'.

Anon 11:41 AM:
Qaddaffi, always good for a laugh, has recently offered Libyan Jewish refugees the right of return - don't think anyone has taken him up on it. It would be even funnier if Israel reciprocated and offered 1/20 of the Palestinian refugees the RoR.

Lebanese and even Syrian Jews would be surprised that they do not exist. On the question of who left the final peace talks in 2001, there has never been any doubt. Israel.

Why not start reading primary sources and serious history instead of propaganda? Then you will see most of the "facts" you "know" are better called "myths."

11:42 PM  

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