Some well-known former U.S. officials, including a few who endorsed or advised President Obama during the campaign, have sent a letter to the president encouraging him to talk to Hamas. And that is not making the Zionist Organization of America happy.
The Boston Globe reported earlier this month that former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker — who is an adviser to the White House but on the economy, not foreign policy — and former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski — whose endorsement was sought by Obama and who served as a surrogate for the candidate on a conference call for Democrats Abroad — are "urging the Obama administration to talk with leaders of Hamas to determine whether the militant group can be persuaded to disarm and join a peaceful Palestinian government, a major departure from current US policy."
Also among the nine signatories was former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who traveled to the Middle East with Obama last summer.Other names included "former House International Relations Committee chairman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat; former United Nations ambassador Thomas Pickering from the first Bush administration; former World Bank president James Wolfensohn; former U.S. trade representative in the Ford administration Carla Hills; Theodore Sorensen, former special counsel to President John F. Kennedy; and former Republican senator … Nancy Kassebaum Baker."
The group [met earlier this month] to decide when to release a report outlining a proposed US agenda for talks aimed at bringing all Palestinian factions into the Mid east peace process, according to Henry Siegman, the president of the US/Middle East Project, who brought the former officials together and said the White House promised the group an opportunity to make its case in person to Obama.
Talking to Hamas, which the State Department has designated a terrorist organization, would mark a dramatic reversal for the US government. Longstanding US policy has stipulated that before engaging in any talks, Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel, and agree to all previous agreements signed by Palestinian negotiators.
"I see no reason not to talk to Hamas," said Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush.
Siegman said the letter, which was handed to Obama by Volcker but has not been made public, said the administration should "at least explore the possibility" that Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian territory of Gaza after elections in 2006, might be willing to transition into a purely political party and join with its rival, Fatah, which holds the Palestinian presidency in the West Bank. …
Siegman and Scowcroft said the letter urged Obama to formulate a clear American position on how the peace talks should proceed and what the specific goals should be.
"The main gist is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace process," Scowcroft said in an interview. "Don’t move it to end of your agenda and say you have too much to do. And the US needs to have a position, not just hold their coats while they sit down."
In a press release entitled "ZOA to Obama: Do Not Deal with Nazi-Like Hamas," ZOA national president Morton Klein responds:
The advice being offered to President Obama by several advisers, many of them with a long record of hostility to Israel, that he should deal with Hamas, is based on the extraordinarily naïve or malign idea that a bloodthirsty group of terrorists can become responsible and acceptable peace partners provided that they utter the right words on a few occasions when the cameras are rolling.
“Do these Obama advisers not recall that we went through the same charade with Yasser Arafat years ago? Then we were asking of Arafat, as we are asking Hamas now, to utter the right words about renouncing terror, accepting Israel and renouncing incitement to hatred and murder in order to bestow recognition and legitimacy on him. Arafat did renounce terrorism, accept Israel’s right to exist and even signed an agreement to that effect, yet he immediately continued terrorism, repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction and continued incitement.
“So look where this policy of demanding words got us. Further back in history, in 1938, we have another example where words meant nothing. We granted Hitler negotiations and huge concessions when he simply uttered phony words of peace that in the end consumed Czechoslovakia – and we ended up with a world war and the Holocaust.
“In short, getting career haters and terrorists to say certain words, or even sign certain agreements, is not a policy because, when they do, it means nothing. Therefore, even if Hamas uttered the few words that we’re asking of them, the result would be the same as it was when we dealt with Arafat. Words and signatures mean nothing when they come from murderers. Surely if such people are capable of murdering they are capable of lying. We are really asking Hamas to lie to us so we can give them recognition and financial aid.
“From where comes this idea that the most despicable terrorists can be rehabilitated by uttering mere words? Current U.S. conditions for talks with Hamas are already too elastic and thus meaningless – the rights words about renouncing terror, accepting past agreements and recognizing Israel would mean nothing even if Hamas was prepared to claim it was doing these things – which it doesn’t.
“If a serial murder like Charles Manson were to claim he had repented of his unspeakable crimes, would we suddenly drop all objections about, and feel comfortable with, our daughters dating him? If the Ku Klux Klan started issuing statements that it renounced hatred of African-Americans, would we start appointing their leaders to the boards of civil rights commissions? Of course not. The idea is laughable.
“If President Obama follows this advice, it will only result in a victory for Islamist terrorism, including the most murderous Palestinian elements, and help prolong the conflict. U.S. policy should have the over-arching goal of bringing the Palestinians to see their non-acceptance and murderous hostility towards Israel as wrong and counter-productive, not something that may be indulged in while earning a seat at the negotiating table. …
“We urge President Obama to repudiate the notion of dealing with Hamas, which would only harm all the President’s objectives in the Middle East – to foster political moderation in the Middle East, to fight and oppose terror groups and to create the conditions for a peace settlement."