Does Hamas desire peace?

By Vic Rosenthal

Can this be believed?

In an interview with Washington Post columnist Robert Novak published on Monday, Hamas Education Minister Naser al-Shaer was quoted as saying that “previous attempts at peace were ruined by suicide bombers. Now, we look forward to a sustained peace.”

According to Novak, “Shaer signaled that the regime recognizes Israel’s right to exist and forgoes violence – conditions essential for talks about a viable Palestinian state adjoining Israel – even if Hamas does not.”

“We hope that it is going to be a matter of time,” Shaer was quoted as saying. “But there is a big chance now.”

Shaer was asked to respond to a recent Los Angeles Times article by the new PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, who wrote that the Palestine Liberation Organization’s 1993 acceptance of Israel and disavowal of violence was “a crystal-clear and binding agreement” that “no Palestinian government has the authority to revoke.”

Fayyad also said that the unity government’s platform “explicitly” pledges to honor all PLO commitments.

Asked if he agreed with Fayyad’s statements Shaer replied that it did not matter. “We are talking about the government, not groups,” he said, adding that Hamas was no more relevant to Palestinian policy than the views of far-right cabinet minister Avigdor Lieberman are to Israeli policy. — Ha’aretz

Shaer’s statements and Novak’s interpretation are disingenuous to say the least. Even if Hamas did not dominate the Palestinian cabinet (it has 12 Hamas-aligned members, 6 from Fatah, and 7 from small parties or independents), the platform of the unity government as adopted in Mecca last month does not support this view. Here is what it says about honoring past agreements:

The government shall abide to protect the higher national interests of the Palestinian people and protect their rights and preserve and develop their accomplishments and work on achieving their national goals as ratified by the resolutions of the PNC meetings and the Articles of the Basic Law and the national conciliation document and the resolutions of the Arab summits and based on this, the government shall respect the international legitimacy resolutions and the agreements that were signed by the PLO. [my emphasis]

Note first that the phrase “based on this” implies that the respect for prior agreements depends on their agreement with the Palestinians’ “national goals”, Arab summits, etc. This interpretation was explicitly enunciated by a Hamas spokesperson, as was the necessity to use the word ‘respect’ and not ‘accept’ or ‘commit’, before the agreement was approved. Since the final language of the platform uses the Hamas formulation, we cannot understand it otherwise.

What about Novak’s remark that “Shaer signaled that the regime recognizes Israel’s right to exist and forgoes violence…”? If this was indeed what Shaer intended, he should have done more than signal. The platform definitely does not renounce violence:

The government affirms that resistance is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people as granted by the international norms and charters; our Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves in face of any Israeli aggression and believes that halting resistance depends on ending the occupation and achieving freedom, return and independence.

It also says nothing about Israel’s right to exist; and the closest Hamas has ever come to this is to admit that it is aware of Israel’s existence as a physical fact — a far cry from accepting that this fact is justified.

Fayyad, who is not a member of Hamas, who represents a party which has a single cabinet member (himself), and who is tasked with restarting international financial aid for the PA, is hardly representative of the regime as a whole — Hamas is.

Now, if Shaer looks forward to a ‘sustained peace’, what is his Hamas movement doing on the ground to promote it? Israel believes that they are working to increase tensions:

Security sources on Thursday said Hamas is supporting Islamic Jihad’s rocket attacks against Israel with behind-the-scenes activities that include arming the organization’s militants with Qassam rockets.

They said Hamas is emerging as the lynchpin of Palestinian terrorist activities against Israel.

While Hamas is maintaining a front of abiding by the cease-fire with Israel in the Gaza Strip, it is providing Qassam rockets to Islamic Jihad militants who are targeting Israeli towns in the south, the security sources said. — Ha’aretz

Update [1158 PDT]: More evidence of Hamas’ ‘moderation’:

A major suicide attack on Tel Aviv was prevented this Passover, as Shin Bet and IDF forces arrested 19 Hamas members in the West Bank city of Qalqilya for planning to detonate a car bomb containing some 220 lbs of explosives, it was cleared for publication on Tuesday.

Investigations revealed that a would-be suicide bomber, a holder of an Israeli ID obtained through family unification, had already reached the center of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area with the vehicle, but for unknown reasons did not carry out the attack and returned to Qalqilya, where the bomb accidentally exploded. — YNet

Update [1329 PDT]: If that’s not enough, here’s more:

The Hamas movement has issued a communiqué calling for abducting Israeli soldiers to mark Prisoners’ Day. The communiqué states: “We call on the Palestinian resistance brigades – Al-Qassam, Al-Aqsa, the Al-Nasser Regiment, the Al-Quds Squadron, Abu ‘Alu Mustafa and the National Resistance, and the other brigades – to take the initiative into their hands and to make plans to liberate the [Palestinian] prisoners by means of field operations, and especially by capturing Zionist soldiers – which is proven to be an ideal method for liberating prisoners from the occupation.” — MEMRI 

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