Hamas's illegitimacy

There can be no dialgoue with Hamas until the recognize Israel and disavow terrorism.

Hamas gunmen 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Hamas gunmen 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Politicians, ex-intelligence chiefs and men of letters are among the swelling - if still relatively marginal - chorus of those advocating direct contacts with Hamas as an antidote to the daily Kassam attacks on Sderot and its western Negev surroundings. Only an accommodation with those who hold sway in Gaza, they argue, can restore a modicum of serenity to the suffering south. Former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Ya'acov Peri promotes direct talks with Hamas if possible to expedite a deal for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, as does Transportation Minister and former IDF chief of General Staff Shaul Mofaz. Some of Israel's leading literati published an open letter, in conjunction with the Geneva Initiative, demanding give and take with Hamas. The signatories included A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman, Eyal Meged, Eli Amir, Meir Shalev and Yehoshua Sobol. Some in Labor, Kadima and much of Meretz subscribe to this counsel. The latest public figure to have apparently joined this chorus was the mayor of embattled Sderot itself, Eli Moyal, a Likud member. Having previously backed an IDF offensive to try to dismantle the Kassam and other terrorist infrastructure in the Strip, the despairing Moyal was reported to have changed course and advocated diplomatic contacts with Gaza's Islamist leadership. In an interview with the Guardian at the weekend, Moyal was quoted as having declared: "I would say to Hamas let's have a cease-fire, let's stop the rockets for the next 10 years and we will see what happens." Moyal added: "If we don't talk, we go deeper and deeper into war…For me as a person the most important thing is life and I am ready to do everything for that. I am ready to talk to the devil." Moyal yesterday "clarified" to The Jerusalem Post that while he personally would do anything, including talk to Hamas, to help safeguard his town, he does not believe the government should do so. But what is most telling about Moyal's comments is the response they elicited from Hamas. "The Zionist settlement of Sderot, which perches on our occupied land north-east of the Gaza Strip, will continue to constitute a legitimate target for the holy warriors of the Izzadin el-Kassam Brigades," Abu Obedia, the spokesman for its military wing, announced. Hamas rockets would continue to be launched against Sderot "in the framework of the ongoing battle against Zionist crimes and in order to deter the Zionist enemy," he went on. "If Sderot's settlers want to enjoy peace, security and stability, their dream would remain unattainable so long as our people are murdered in their homes, shelled overhead and terminated in their vehicles… The residents of the Zionist settlement of Sderot will continue to pay dearly." Hamas falsely portrays its rocket attacks as a response to Israeli fire. This is the notorious cycle-of-violence canard, which Gaza markets abroad with some success - even though Israel "disengaged" from Gaza in 2005, has no military or civilian presence there, and hoped for a quiet border once it had left. And yet when offered a clear opportunity to break this purported cycle, Hamas refuses it. At the same time, Hamas castigates Israel for pinpoint strikes aimed personally against individual mass-murderers and terror masterminds. The bottom line is that even minimal Israeli self-defense is illegitimate, as is the very existence of the "settlement" of Sderot. Sderot, it must be stressed, lies entirely within the Green Line. Even those at home and abroad who beseech the government to negotiate with Hamas, despite its overt dedication to Israel's destruction, do not question the legitimacy of Sderot as an incontestable part of the Jewish state. The fact that Sderot is publicly described by Hamas as an interloping and usurping "Zionist settlement" underlines the problematics of dialogue. You negotiate with your enemies; it is wrongheaded to negotiate with enemies implacably committed to your destruction. Dialogue with Hamas has been rightly conditioned by Israel, and most of the international community, on Hamas recognizing Israel's right to exist, accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and disavowing terrorism. The notion of Hamas actually meeting these conditions seems all but unthinkable. The notion of Israel legitimizing Hamas in the absence of such a fundamental shift in its orientation - and thus opening the door to the widespread international legitimization of Hamas, with the accompanying assistance that would ensure the sustaining of Hamas rule in Gaza and its strengthening in the West Bank, to the detriment of any and all moderate alternatives - is still more unthinkable.