In its coverage of Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal’s fiery speech to celebrate the terrorist group’s 25th anniversary, in which he vowed to destroy Israel and replace it with a Palestinian state “from the sea to the river,” the New York Times offered a fascinating analysis of the unfortunate implications.
“Mr. Meshal’s harsh words reflected longstanding Hamas principles rather than new, specific threats toward Israel,” the Times’ Steven Erlanger reassured his readers. “But they will only reinforce Israel’s belief that Hamas is its enemy and intends to continue to use military force to reach its goals.”
Yes, that is unfortunate. Israeli leaders may hear Meshal’s words and somehow conclude that Hamas is an “enemy” that “intends to continue to use military force.” Why ever would Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues draw such conclusions?
Hamas -- an enemy?
“First of all,” Meshal declared, “Palestine -- from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, from its north to its south -- is our land, our right, and our homeland. There will be no relinquishing or forsaking even an inch or small part of it… [W]e must never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of it. The occupation is illegitimate, and therefore, Israel is illegitimate, and will remain so throughout the passage of time. Palestine belongs to us, not to the Zionists.”
Hamas -- use military force?
“Jihad and armed resistance,” Meshal said, “are the proper and true path to liberation and to the restoration of our rights, along with all other forms of struggle -- through politics, through diplomacy, through the masses, and through legal channels. All these forms of struggle, however, are worthless without resistance… The true statesman is born from the womb of the rifle and the missile.”
Yes, those are surprising conclusions for the Israelis to draw. Apparently prone to flawed logic, Jerusalem may draw similarly misguided conclusions from other recent developments across the Palestinian world.
Hamas (which runs Gaza) and the supposedly “moderate” Palestinian Authority (which runs the West Bank) are expressing interest in reconciling their differences and forming a unity government -- though Hamas officials have made clear that, for that to occur, the PA will have to embrace their genocidal agenda for the Jewish State.
At the moment, the two parties are setting the stage for reconciliation with a host of goodwill gestures toward one another.
For instance, each party said that it would release the members of the other party that it had jailed after the two sides fought in 2007, according to the Jewish Policy Center’s GazaWATCH. In addition, GazaWATCH wrote, the PA “has … reportedly decided to reopen Hamas institutions in the West Bank.”
Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported that the PA has ceased its security operations against Hamas in the West Bank and that each party would allow the other to hold rallies in their respective territories.
In the West Bank, not surprisingly, anti-Israeli violence has increased markedly in recent weeks. Israeli soldiers and police have clashed with Palestinian protesters on several occasions, and Israeli intelligence reports that terrorist groups based in the West Bank are planning more attacks.
In the West Bank, the changes are dramatic enough that, The Times of Israel reports, the Israel Defense Forces and the nation’s security force, Shin Bet, are planning for a “new era” and possible Intifada-like activity. A possible PA-Hamas rapprochement comes in the wake of two other developments that, alas, Israel also may misinterpret.
The first was Hamas’ recent barrage of rockets into Israel -- which totaled more than 1,000, reached the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, prompted Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, and ended with an Israel-Hamas treaty that allowed Meshal to visit Gaza because Israel promised to stop targeting terrorist leaders.
The second was the PA’s success in securing United Nations non-member “observer state” status, which will do nothing to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace or improve Palestinian life on the ground but will, however, enable the PA to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has already warned that the PA may take Israel to The Hague over its recent announcement that the Jewish State will build 3,000 housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
So, let’s make sure that we understand the situation:
Hamas reiterates its longstanding pledge to eliminate Israel, promotes violence as the only realistic way to do so, and seeks reconciliation with the PA in an effort that has already generated more violence and a higher terrorist threat against Israel from what had been a fairly peaceful West Bank -- and the world’s most influential newspaper worries that Israel may draw the wrong conclusion?
Give me a break.
Lawrence J. Haas, former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and author of “Sound the Trumpet: The United States and Human Rights Promotion” (just out from Rowman & Littlefield).