Hamas takes the long view


With the Hamas-Israel ceasefire set to expire on Friday, two items in the Middle East press focus on Hamas’ long view of its conflict with Israel.

From Rami Khouri’s column in Lebanon’s Daily Star:

Like other Islamist groups, Hamas calculates on the basis of a longer time frame than the next election, shifting public opinion, or whether or not it will be invited to tea at the White House. The single most important factor in the mind of the Islamist leaders is whether the agreement to renew the cease-fire reflects mutual respect and an acceptance of the principle of equal rights for Israel and Hamas.

If the deal proposed is seen to have forced Israel to change its position and respect the terms of the agreement, Hamas will extend. If it merely comprises vague Israeli promises in return for Hamas and other militant groups stopping their rocket attacks against Israel, the deal will collapse. Hamas’ view is that mutual requirements, rather than the unilateral requirement of Israeli security, must be assured for a cease-fire to happen. The driving force for such a posture is the Islamist sense that the battle to defend and reclaim the land will be a long one, and it will require a heavy price in lives and suffering before Israel negotiates sincerely and views the Palestinians as humans worthy of the same rights as Israelis.

From Amira Hass in Israel’s Ha’aretz:

As a religious movement, Hamas is in no rush; the future belongs to Islam, even if only the great-grandchildren, or their grandchildren, will see it. This is a very real future, the evidence of which can be found in the Koran. Every believer can cite the relevant proofs and knows that the hour will come when the Arab states and Muslim nations are able to overcome the pro-American governments. Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization once had a similar agenda for the liberation of all of Palestine, but when it became clear that the future was becoming a mental refuge, the nationalist organizations chose compromise and the present…

Without a present, what is left to the Palestinians, in the West Bank as in Gaza, is the heroic, mystic past, and the distant future, as a refuge. This is the bread and butter of religious politics.

As the six-month truce is set to expire, the Jerusalem Post editorialists offer this perspective:

Hamas’s demands are insatiable, because its opposition to Israel is absolute. An organization that shot dead its own Palestinian people when taking power in Gaza in June 2007 has no compunction in killing, kidnapping and manipulating ours.

Israel can afford no illusions when it comes to confronting, marginalizing and ultimately defeating Hamas. Adherents of a very different Islam, an Islam of "peace, kindness, justice, honesty, integrity and respect," should share that ambition.

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