Don't Strengthen Hamas

[International Herald Tribune] Mark A. Heller - If President Obama's special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, allows Hamas to save itself, Hamas and the world view it shares with Hizbullah and their Iranian sponsors will appear even more to be on the winning side of history. There is a growing call to "engage" Hamas, presumably on the assumption that a movement founded on the premise that there is no solution to the Palestinian problem "except by jihad" and committed to "raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine" can somehow be sweet-talked into accommodation. There is not a shred of evidence to support this assumption. So Mitchell's task should be to isolate Hamas in order to "disengage" it from Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere. Mitchell needs to keep alive the possibility of a viable negotiating process by preventing the re-empowerment of Hamas. Specifically, he should begin to coordinate an effective, multi-pronged effort with America's NATO and regional allies that will 1) prevent the reopening of the tunnels and interdict the supply chains pouring weapons and cash into Hamas hands; and 2) provide direct access for needy Gazans to the outside world and to alternative humanitarian support and reconstruction funding, to be administered by or channeled through a multilateral consortium and the Palestinian Authority. There is no doubt that Hamas will resist any steps to bypass and undercut its authority. The response should be that an American-led consortium will not collaborate in the rehabilitation and entrenchment of Hamas power, and that if Hamas insists on standing in the way, it will bear responsibility for failure to improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, External Relations Commissioner of the EU, has made clear that while emergency relief will continue no matter what, Europe should not support the reconstruction of Gaza under Hamas rule. America under Obama needs to show the same understanding of the strategic issue at stake. The writer is principal research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University.

2009-01-30 06:00:00

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