Hamas should not be allowed to run in the upcoming Palestinian elections as long it remains an armed terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction, former US national security adviser Samuel Berger said Monday.
“We should make it clear to [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas now, and persuade the European Union and Arab states to do likewise, that we will oppose an election in the Palestinian territories that includes Hamas,” said Berger, who served from 1997 to 2001 under former US president Bill Clinton.
He made his remarks at the 2014 Herzliya Conference, sponsored by the IDC Herzliya, a week after the united Fatah-Hamas Palestinian government was formally sworn into office in a June 2 Ramallah ceremony.
The US and EU have said they will work with the new government, dismissing Israel’s objections that such acceptance sanctions terror. The US and EU have explained that this is a technocratic government that recognizes Israel and renounces violence against it, even though the new government has ties to Hamas.
Berger said the question was not the composition of this particular government, which he said would meet international expectations so it could have access to funds and continue to work with Israel on security arrangements. The issue, he continued, is the upcoming elections in the Palestinian territories, which are likely to take place in the next six months.
He added that the focus should also be on Hamas’s military ability and whether it would become part of the PLO.
“We should make it clear to Abbas that we will oppose Hamas’s integration into the PLO unless and until it signs up to the Quartet’s principles,” Berger said.
But he noted that in the end, Israel had only three options in dealing with Hamas: It could destroy Hamas with a military incursion into Gaza; it could continue to keep Hamas “caged up” there, with the ongoing danger of missile strikes; or it could focus on truly folding Hamas under Ramallah’s umbrella with “one authority” and “one gun,” in such a way that the group renounced violence.
That last option won’t be easy, he went on, advising that one should not give up on the peace process in the interim.
He said a two-state solution was a long-term strategic goal for the United States and Israel. It isn’t in America’s interest to disengage from the peace process, Berger said, adding that Israel must also act with an eye to the end goal.
“Anything Israel does in the short or medium term should be consistent with that longer-term objective,” he said.
Israel should not, therefore, take steps that preclude the possibility of working with a Palestinian partner in the future, he added.
“It means not closing the door [by annexing] parts of the West Bank, or [with] the kind of settlement construction that closes the prospect for a two-state solution,” he said.
“Some say that peacemaking in the Middle East can only happen after a new violent crisis,” Berger continued. “History teaches us that sometimes that could be the case, that things need to get worse before both sides accept that necessity of compromise.”
He explained that this could be dangerous, because “violent crises can easily veer out of control and can have enduring costs throughout the region.”
The former national security adviser said he had great faith in the enduring quality of US-Israel ties.
“Every positive adjective devised by man has been applied to our relationship,” he said. “The one that I can think of is resilience. It has been through one crisis after another since the beginning.”
In spite of the crisis, he asserted, those ties have deepened between the two countries because they have the same shared values and the same view of the world.