It’s not personal

If Monday’s Op-Ed column "Hamas Comes Out of Hiding" is any indication, the editors over at the New York Times still must be recovering from eight cups of wine at two seders last week.

Copy editors missed the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu has been Israel’s prime minister for about two weeks — author Paul McGeough describes him as "set to begin his second term as prime minister" — but two far more egregious errors fundamentally misstate or musunderstand the nature of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

McGeough writes:

Over the long term, Hamas accepts the concept of two states in the Levant, which arguably puts Mr. Mishal’s terrorist movement closer to Washington than Netanyahu is — he now proposes only “economic peace” between Jews and Palestinians.

I’m mystified as to what led McGeough to conclude that Hamas accepts the two-state solution over the long term, or what led the Times’ editors to let this factually incorrect line run. I was on vacation all of last week, but if Hamas came around to endorsing a two-state solution I would have heard. Hamas has indicated support for a long-term cease-fire with Israel but at every turn has made clear that its ultimate goal is conquest of all of historic Palestine, even if it takes 100 years.

The editors also gave McGeough a pass by running a column that posits that the conflict between Netanyahu and Meshaal is somehow about these two personalities. It’s not, and even Meshaal tells McGeough so:

As for finding himself at center stage with the man who ordered him killed, Mr. Mishal insisted that in the broad scheme of things, Mr. Netanyahu is just one more in a succession of prime ministers. “It’s fate, God’s destiny, but we can’t set policy on the basis of personal grudges,” he told me.

Perhaps. But not since the personal bitterness between Mr. Arafat and the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have Palestinians and Israelis faced such a leadership dynamic. Once again, personal enmity could swamp the more pressing complexities of the Middle East crisis.

Netanyahu didn’t try to kill Meshaal in the 1990s because he didn’t like Meshaal; he did so because Meshaal was the leader of a terrorist group carrying out suicide bombings in Israeli malls, buses and hotels. Meshaal’s main objection to Netanyahu isn’t personal; it’s because he’s the leader of an entity, Israel, he’s sworn to destroy.

Even if Netanyahu and Meshaal were both long gone, Hamas and Israel would be at odds. What Israeli prime minister and Hamas leader would get along?

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