Hamas Is Not the IRA

[International Herald Tribune] Zion Evrony - Since my arrival in Ireland about a year ago as Israel's ambassador, it has been suggested to me in almost every conversation that Israelis and Palestinians should learn from Northern Ireland's peace process. In particular, I am told that Israel should talk to Hamas, as Britain and Ireland spoke to the IRA. After all, the IRA, as a terrorist organization, moderated its position, gave up arms, abandoned the use of terrorism, and accepted an agreement based on compromise. But would a similar process lead Hamas to end its campaign of violence and accept the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state living in peace with Israel? While there are some similarities between these two protracted conflicts, it is a dangerous exercise to conclude that they are the same because of their largely different historical, geopolitical and cultural circumstances. Underlying my Irish friends' advice is the expectation that should Israel start a dialogue with Hamas, the latter will change its ideology, renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, stop all acts of violence, suicide bombings and Kassam rocket attacks, and relinquish its weapons. Unfortunately, this theory is not valid in the case of Hamas. The ideology of Hamas is defined in absolutist religious terms, that of a radical version of Islam, which is not open to influence or change. At the core of this belief is the desire to create an Islamist state based on Islamic law over all the land, not just the West Bank and Gaza, but Israel as well. There is no acceptance of the notion of coexistence, no support for the idea of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, but an exclusive demand, based on fundamentalist interpretations of religious texts, for control of the entire territory. Hamas officials continue in their refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. In contrast, the IRA never questioned Britain's right to exist. In fact, the whole idea of a peace process and the use of mediators are ruled out by the Hamas Charter. "Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the unbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam" (Article 13). What then is a prudent policy for the international community towards Hamas? The answer is a united front and a consistent policy, demanding and insisting on the acceptance of the three principles laid out by the Quartet: recognition of Israel's right to exist, renouncing and ending terrorism, and accepting all prior agreements and understandings achieved between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

2007-09-06 01:00:00

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