Hamas, UN and Palestinian Statehood

The United States and Israel continue to oppose the UN granting the Palestinians recognition as a “non-member state.” But the objections seem increasingly farfetched, as even Hamas has shown a more moderate side in endorsing this modest proposal, notes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

What is one of the first things Hamas does when it is fresh off standing up against an Israeli assault and widely perceived to have gained ground politically at the expense of its intramural rival, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority? It voices support for Abbas’s effort to get his organization’s status at the United Nations upgraded from observer to “non-member state.”

Given the way Hamas is routinely suspected and reviled in some quarters, this move is sure to give rise to explanations that are convoluted and conspiratorial, that what Hamas is saying is a ruse, or is just a tactic for harassing Israel, or is a step toward shoving the Palestinian Authority aside while Abbas is down.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, speaking with journalists in 2009. (Photo credit: Trango)

The explanation that is simple and straightforward, and ought to be obvious, is much more likely to be accurate: that Hamas supports the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel, and that diplomacy is the preferred way to achieve that goal. That’s all that anyone who endorses Abbas’s initiative at the U.N. is signing up to.

And it is what everyone with a hand in this long-running conflict, including Israel, the Palestinians, the Quartet and the Arab League, claims to support. The Hamas spokesman said that his organization supports any political gains that Abbas can make at the U.N. “without causing harm to the national Palestinian rights.”

Although some saw this position by Hamas as surprising, there is no reason for any surprise. Hamas has repeatedly made clear that it will support the establishment of a Palestinian state limited to the 22 percent of the mandate of Palestine that would be represented by the 1967 borders, provided that such a settlement is approved by a majority of Palestinians in a referendum.

The land swaps that are generally recognized as being necessary to accommodate some of the facts that Israel has established on the ground since 1967 represent a small step from that formula, as long as the 1967 borders are taken as the starting point for any such trades.

And yet the government of Israel, and Americans who sing that government’s tune, and much of the American media habitually describe Hamas and the objectives of Hamas as something much different. The usual formula is something like “Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.”

Attempts to substantiate such a description often point to Hamas not having formally recognized Israel and its right to exist. Well, it hasn’t, but neither has Israel recognized any right of Hamas to exist (even after Hamas won a free all-Palestinian election).

Not only that, but Israel has done everything it can to try to squeeze Hamas out of existence, going to the extreme of collectively punishing the population of the Gaza Strip in an unsuccessful effort to do so. It is Israel that appears to be dedicated to the destruction of Hamas. Why should Hamas be expected to bestow the first recognition, gratis, under such circumstances?

One also often hears that all Hamas is offering is a hudna or truce, rather than a commitment to a final settlement. That will be a distinction without a practical difference. The agreement that ended the Korean War 59 years ago is only a hudna, but that peace has held even though the regime north of the armistice line is far more erratic, illegitimate, and downright scary than Hamas.

Besides, anyone can see, and Hamas’s leaders are not dummies, that Israel, the strongest state in its region, is here to stay no matter what its borders. Even if the most extreme, negative assumptions about Hamas’s intentions and objectives were true (and they very likely are not), being part of (or even being the ruling party in) a Palestinian state in that 22 percent would not bring it any closer to being able to destroy or even undermine Israel.

Instead, it would have that much more to lose from the certain retaliation if it were to renege on an agreement that finally established the long-sought Palestinian state.

An upgraded status for Palestinians at the United Nations merely levels somewhat the diplomatic playing field for the bilateral negotiations that will still be needed to bring a real Palestinian state into existence, as well as reconfirming the objective that everybody involved says they share. It would thus be a positive step.

Don’t just listen to what Abbas or Hamas say on the subject. See what former Israeli diplomat Yossi Beilin, who helped to craft the Oslo accords, says about it. See also the statement on the subject by Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was the Norwegian prime minister at the time the accords were negotiated, and Jimmy Carter, who based on his past experience also knows a thing or two about Arab-Israeli negotiations.

Probably some in Israel and the United States will see Hamas’s endorsement of Abbas’s U.N. initiative as another reason to oppose the initiative. If the governments of Israel and the United States continue foolishly to oppose this move and to invest political capital in trying to defeat it, we will have come in a sense full circle.

The organization that is continually accused of not wanting a peaceful diplomatic settlement will have signed on to a process aimed at moving toward such a settlement and giving it additional multilateral approval. It will be its chief accusers who fail to do so.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post  at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

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8 comments for “Hamas, UN and Palestinian Statehood

  1. F. G. Sanford
    November 30, 2012 at 5:07 am

    The whole thing is just…marvelous! World opinion finally triumphs over cynicism, and look who’s side we’re on. The United Kingdom considered voting in favor, but apparently failed to get the prerequisite assurances that the Palestinians wouldn’t pursue any grievances at the International Criminal Court. Of course, that could only be a legitimate concern if the ‘hypothetical’ grievances had merit. Susan Rice, whose hypocritical response hardly surpassed Claude Rains’ Captain Louis Renault, was shocked, SHOCKED to discover that gambling with Mideast Peace could be occurring in that august establishment. Feckless sycophants no less repulsive than Peter Lorre’s Ugarte, of course, towed the line. Yes, the ‘usual suspects’, at it again. But, we mustn’t forget that The Marshall Islands has essentially no economy without the rent we provide them for military bases. Was it Sweden that abstained last year, but voted in favor this year? Yes, Ilsa had a tough time deciding…Rick…or Victor? And where were those Czechs? As Reinhard Heydrich proudly proclaimed to Heinrich Himmler, “You can count on my Czechs!” Victor Laszlo was no freedom fighter this time around. He threw in his towel for the same perks as Nauru and Panama. Those “letters of transit” are worth their weight in petrodollars. “Heinifuehrer” would have been proud of that kind of loyalty. But France did the right thing. Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite! La Marseillaise inspires anew! Of 188 member states, only nine voted no. Common sense isn’t just catching up, it’s the overwhelming majority. This could be the beginning of a beautiful century…if only America would stop acting like Conrad Veidt.

    password

  2. John
    November 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Borat: Jews don’t call those people who follow the Jewish faith but believe Jesus was the second coming or whatever Jews but a Christian sect. Christianity is diverse itself. It looks at Jesus as the son of God but the stories are uncannily simmilar to Egyptian tales 2000 years before. So Christianity looks like a combination of Egyptian and Jewish stories.
    Why should the Palestinians and other Arabs have accepted the partition when it gave the minority the most and best land. They saw it as grossly unfair.
    Zionist funding agencies only bought 7% of Israel, from large estate owners often living in Turkey, but there were many Palestinians living and working the estates. Palestinian nationalism was just budding.
    As for Friedman most ME pros wouldn’t look twice.

  3. John
    November 29, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    At one time Palestinians had one of the highest percentages for the level of education of its children. Now they have to go abroard to get educated. And nobody is talking of a Palastinian people Borat, it was a mix, and the Jews that never left the ‘Palastinian region’, were I guess anti-Semtic, they didn’t want the trouble making Zionist foreigners coming and making trouble.
    I was going to say this in a previous article but spam cut me off:
    Chuck Gorman, I appreciate your views, what happened before and during WWII was wicked, and very traumatic, but life moves on.
    In the MEast, Jews (a minority) had political power in the Ottoman empire before it fell. Then came Balfour and Zionism. Kibbutz appeared, remote landlords sold their Palestinian estates upon which Palestinians worked (only 7% of Israel was actually purchased at the time of partition – usually paid for by big outside Jewish funds). Jews passed a law that on these properties, only Jews could be hired. Some broke the law as Arab labour was cheaper. But Palestinians lost their livelihoods upon estates on which they had lived and worked. At the time of Balfour, Palestinian nationalism was developing, they wanted more local control over their affairs. So there were several competing forces at work. Even those Jews whose family lines had always been in Palestine, didn’t want the Zionist coming in and upsetting life there.
    With partition on the way, Jews in other Arab countries were either persuaded to move by Jewish organizations, or Arab resentment at what was seen coming sadly made them push Jews out further compounding the Palestinian problem. When the majority population got the least land and not the best land how do you think Arabs would feel if you were in their shoes. If Jews are badly treated somewhere in the world, doesn’t the whole Jewish community come together to see what can be done? Arabs are no different.
    To me it is obvious that Israel doesn’t want to hand over the West Bank and Gaza. I say that because the Arabs have put several peace plans before Israel and each has been refused. The tell tale was Oslo where Arafat secretly negotiated a plan but he didn’t have his best negotiators there, they were in New York trying to iron out a peace plan with the Americans and Israel. Hanan Ashrawi (a Palestinian Christian) was there and talks about it in her book, saying their talks were going nowhere as Israel didn’t want to talk details and time lines. They were shocked when they saw what Arafat had signed, the occupied territories become the disputed land, the big items to discuss were left for years figure out later. And you would think that a peace deal would have had words in it to stop illegal settlement. If Israel had been sincere they would have stopped that activity. They didn’t, but increased it. Arafat had been jubilant and called Carter to say we have a country (Carter’s book). It didn’t take long for ordinary Palestinians to see they had been duped.
    Jews Christians and Muslims have lived in peace there before, they could do it again if everybody would play fair. If you are constantly confronted with stalling tactics, a brutal occupation how do you think people will react? With time and methods of atonement as were used in South Africa the problem could be solved. That isn’t going to happen if European Jews and the Russian Jews believe God gave them the land, or people of one religion should leave because there are numerous countries with the same religion they can go to. The world doesn’t work like that. Palestinians, Christian and Muslim ( and Jews) had their society structured there, why should they move. It’s like what happened to NA natives populations at a much earlier time when communication was slow and elitism very prevalent. Times are different today. Communication is swift, and what is going on in Palestine is intolerable to many, not because it is anti-Semitic but because Israel is supposed to be a democracy with Western ideals. All I can say is you reap what you sow.

  4. rosemerry
    November 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    A very interesting article, with the NYT link to Oslo accord requirements being very pertinent. The Palestinian State issue was not on the Oslo table, so the US/Israel refusal to support it is counterproductive and based on lies.
    I often wonder how the USA/ Israel can continue to parade proudly as moral, true, correct etc when often they are the ONLY two nations voting in the UNGA against motions nearly every other country supports. This does not only apply to Israel’s crimes, but to the right for food, against terrorism . William Blum has a long list in “Rogue State”.

  5. Frances in California
    November 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Seriously, borat, if you want anyone to read your posts, don’t quote Friedman.

    • rosemerry
      November 29, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      Thanks for that. I could hardy believe the boring rat would bring in so many lies all at once, in the Friedmanesque manner.

  6. Hillary
    November 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    U.S Administrations repeatedly stressed how there were no free elections in the Middle East and how Israel was the only Democracy there.

    So !
    Palestinians had a free and fair election and elected Hamas.

    Immediately Israel claimed that Hamas was a terrorist organization and of course the US under permanent Israeli control immediately followed suit.

    Palestinians are the indigenous people and Jews (80%)Ashkenazi are Eastern European interlopers as Hellen Thomas so rightly pointed out.

    http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com/2010/12/jonathan-cook-hate-gentile-israels.html

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