Ignoring a bad reality will not make it disappear.
More likely a
problematic situation will worsen over time, emerging in ways most inconvenient
and harmful. This is the Hamas predicament that world leaders and mainstream
media willfully overlook.
Although Gaza will presumably be part of the
future Palestinian state that Mahmoud Abbas formally asked the UN to recognize,
neither the many countries that endorsed his plan nor the media editorials that
have supported Palestinian statehood have mentioned Hamas.
Palestinian Authority president did not utter the name of his partner during his
45-minute address to the UN General Assembly when he cited “achieving national
Abbas was obliquely referring to the agreement he signed
with the Hamas prime minister governing Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, at a Cairo
ceremony in May marking Fatah-Hamas unity pact. That elusive unity is still not
likely to materialize.
Hamas despises Abbas. He is not allowed to visit
Gaza, whose 1.6 million residents he claims to represent.
the unity agreement, Hamas has demanded that Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, an
Abbas appointee who is favored in the West and has led successful Palestinian
institution-building and economic growth, be replaced. The stalemate over
creating a new Palestinian Cabinet and setting a date for elections has, in
effect, cancelled the effort at Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.
Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Hamas barrier has been even more
detrimental. Days before Abbas left Ramallah for New York, Hamas spokesmen
adamantly pointed out that the PA president does not represent Gaza. "Because
nobody consulted us, we, Hamas, do not take this issue seriously,” Ahmed Yousef,
the deputy foreign minister in Gaza, told Al Jazeera.
OTHER HAMAS leaders
were clearer. Salah Bardawil, a Hamas member of the Palestinian parliament,
warned that Abbas’s UN bid “will cement the Palestinians’ recognition of
Israel’s right to exist.”
Haniyeh, Abbas’s Hamas partner, not only
condemned the UN gambit but declared that he seeks a Palestinian state “without
giving up an inch of Palestine or recognizing Israel.” The Hamas leader
confirmed again that for his organization the occupation began not in 1967, but
with the very creation of Israel in 1948.
Ironically, Hamas found itself
aligned, if for totally different reasons, with Israel and the United States in
openly opposing Abbas’s strategy to secure UN recognition.
continues to press Abbas to return to direct negotiations, Hamas maintains its
commitment to waging a war of terror that undermines any serious effort to
advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.
For UN Security Council members, as
well as for the rest of the world, this should not be news – except that they
collectively choose to ignore the essence of Hamas. There are sound reasons why
the European Union and the US have designated Hamas as a terrorist
It could have been so positively different. When Israel
totally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, removing all settlers, soldiers, even the
graves of loved ones, the Palestinians had a golden opportunity to begin to
erect the foundations of a future state. But Hamas was emboldened by its victory
in the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006.
As part of the
Palestinian Authority government, Hamas was offered a chance to join Abbas in
the peace process with Israel. But the radical interpretation of Islam that
informs Hamas ideology does not allow for any alterations in its posture of
hatred and violence toward Israel.
Hamas refused to accept the Quartet
invitation because it would not renounce terror, recognize Israel and accept all
previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
The brewing Palestinian tensions
erupted in June 2007 when Hamas violently seized control of Gaza in a brief,
brutal Palestinian civil war.
It was a tragedy for the Palestinians and
for peace with Israel, and lingers as an omen for the putative Palestinian
state. UN recognition will not end this internecine Palestinian
Rather than deal with those troubling Palestinian realities,
world leaders seem to pay attention to Gaza only when there is a confrontation
involving Israel, such as Operation Cast Lead in 2009 or the 2010 flotilla,
without a consideration for Hamas’s role and its ongoing threat to Israel, the
PA and regional security.
Hamas, with Iranian support, has amassed
thousands of mortars and rockets and continues to fire them at communities in
southern Israel. While Hosni Mubarak was in power, Egypt was aligned with Israel
in trying to contain Hamas. Now, with a more open border at Rafah, greater
lawlessness in the Sinai and an increasingly assertive Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas
no doubt sees an opportunity to stand firm.
Unwavering consistency and
long-term patience are Hamas hallmarks. But world leaders set to vote at the UN
should not be complicit. Continuing to ignore Hamas is an enormous disservice to
those who truly seek Arab-Israeli peace.The writer is the American
Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.