I have rarely read anything quite as incoherent as the latest from J Street. In response to the news that the Fatah and Hamas organizations are yet again proposing a unity government for the Palestinians, they write,
J Street regards today’s news of a preliminary agreement on political reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas with caution and urges the United States to press forward with an even more assertive effort to forge a two-state solution. Today’s developments only highlight how important it is for the United States – backed by the international community – to define the contours of a two–state solution.
A non-sequitur. But for J Street, nothing is more important, ever, than Israel being forced to withdraw from the territories. Anything that happens will “highlight” this, in their world.
J Street has consistently condemned Hamas for calling for Israel’s destruction, using terror and violence against Israeli civilians and denying the Holocaust. Bringing Hamas into a unity government poses real challenges to those of us who are deeply concerned about Israel’s security.
Hamas proudly proclaims that the highest calling of a Muslim is to kill Jews, and does its best to do so day in and out. So, yes, there are “real challenges” for those of us who want to stay alive. Does this mean that J Street reasonably opposes negotiations with a government that includes Hamas? Sounds like it…
However, we also recognize several important realities: first, that one makes peace with one’s enemies not one’s friends; second, that Hamas – although weaker today – still has a significant base of political support within Palestinian society; and, third, that overcoming the split between Fatah and Hamas (and between the West Bank and Gaza) has always been a condition for effective resolution of the conflict.
…but apparently not.
Of course you make peace with enemies, but only enemies with whom you have common interests, interests that are more compelling to them than their desire to kill you. Absent that, the conflict continues until one or the other side wins. Such common interests do not exist between Israel and Hamas, so the only way for us to survive is to win. Anything that strengthens Hamas physically or psychologically moves peace farther away, not closer. This is precisely why we should not negotiate with terrorists.
Many who oppose a two-state deal have argued that these divisions among the Palestinians make peace impossible. Reconciliation would, however, increase President Abbas’ ability to carry out a two-state agreement. Now, these opponents of a two-state agreement are likely to shift to arguing that a deal is impossible with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.
Certainly a divided Palestinian entity makes it harder to make an agreement that will stick — but so do the introduction of rejectionists into the Palestinian Authority. Regardless, even if Hamas didn’t exist, isn’t it clear that the PLO doesn’t want a negotiated end to the conflict? Hamas, in or out of the Palestinian Authority, only makes it worse.
If indeed this reconciliation deal is implemented – and history does give reason to question whether it will – the new Palestinian leadership that emerges will have to answer many questions in the coming weeks: Is the Palestinian Liberation Organization – as the official representative of the Palestinian people – still committed to a two-state solution? Is it willing to reaffirm its renunciation of the use of violence and terror against Israeli civilians? Will existing security understandings be honored?
The best way to test this is for the US to put a clear choice before the Israelis and the Palestinians. That is precisely why J Street has called today for the United States to put forward a framework for a two-state deal that sets out parameters for resolving the core issues of the conflict.
The PLO is not now and never was committed to a “two-state solution” (TSS) in the sense of a Jewish and Arab state living peacefully side by side. The TSS, to the PLO, has always meant an Arab-only apartheid state next to an “Israel” which implements the Arab ‘right of return’, and therefore ceases to be a Jewish state. This ambiguity has been consistently maintained throughout the ‘peace process’, which is one of the reasons it has consistently failed.
The ‘test’ proposed by the deliberately ‘naive’ leaders of J Street is for the US to force the implementation of some form of TSS. At very least it will include Israeli withdrawal from the territories. If the PLO fails to meet its commitments, what will happen? Will Israel send the IDF back into the territories, which will at that point be a sovereign ‘Palestine’? Will it un-bulldoze the settlements that it will have destroyed? Will it put its society back together after the upheaval caused by the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of its own people?