Hamas Speech Dampens Peace Hopes

Between Israel’s expansion of West Bank settlements and deepening Palestinian resentments, chances for a two-state solution continue to shrink. The fiery words of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal have only made prospects worse, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

What Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal said at a mass rally in Gaza City on Saturday was contemptible. Taken at face value, his words eradicated any distinction between Israeli and Palestinian territory, and any possibility of Israelis and Palestinians living in peace.

“Palestine, from the river to the sea, from north to south, is our land,” he said. “Not an inch of it can be conceded,” Meshal continued, adding that “Israel has no right in Jerusalem.” The words were despicable because they deny the right of Israelis to live in their own state, in their own part of the former mandate of Palestine.

Khaled Meshal, political leader of Hamas. (Photo credit: Hamas Official Web Site)

What Meshal said was not only despicable but dumb. His words contradicted the repeated indications from Hamas that it is willing to observe a hudna, or indefinite truce, with Israel if a Palestinian state is created based on the 1967 boundaries and is approved by a majority of Palestinians in a referendum.

Meshal also implicitly contradicted himself by referring favorably in the same speech to Palestinian unity and reconciliation with Fatah, a theme to which he returned in a speech at the Islamic University of Gaza the following day.

Given the now firmly established commitment to a two-state solution by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — who only recently received headlines for commenting publicly about how a former refugee like himself will never return to live in what is now the state of Israel — reconciliation can come about only within a two-state framework. And a two-state framework is the only one that can ever enable Palestinian national aspirations to be realized.

Meshal’s words were an open invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to respond with an equally hard-line statement that with comments like that from a Palestinian leader then there is no hope for any negotiated peace and no reason for Israel to concede an inch of land either. Which is exactly what Netanyahu did in remarks on Sunday.

Someone with Meshal’s background and position ought to be smart enough to realize all this, and to realize further that there is no such thing as speaking publicly to one audience without having effects on other audiences. In this case the other audiences are not only Israelis but governments and publics elsewhere.

What Meshal was doing on Saturday is what American politicians might call stirring up the base. But he cannot just shake his Etch-a-Sketch and take a more sober posture later without already sustaining diplomatic damage.

Probably he got swept up in the mood of the moment — all those people, all those green flags, and the euphoria stemming from the belief (which Hamas has done its best to promote) that Hamas was a winner in the recent armed clash with Israel.

If Meshal was partly trying to sustain that euphoria, he overplayed his hand; politicians have been known to do that in euphoric moments. He probably undid some of the sympathy that Gazans received as they sustained the latest pounding from Israel.

Then there are the circumstances more personal to Meshal. This past week was the first time he had ever set foot in — and kissed the ground of — the Gaza Strip. He also is someone whom the Israelis have tried to assassinate. It probably doesn’t take much in the way of momentary moods to cause someone in such a situation to go over the top in talking about his would-be assassins.

There is plenty of reason to believe that Hamas leaders, including Meshal, still favor the indefinite hudna based on 1967 borders. There are far too many indications of that to be outweighed by emotional comments at a rally.

That formula also offers the politically ambitious Hamas leadership the only chance that they will ever govern anything other than the miserable little corner of Palestinian territory that is the Gaza Strip (and given Israel’s continued strangulating control over the Strip, it is a stretch to say that Hamas “governs” even that).

Everybody — including Israel, Abbas and the United States — ought to eschew general labels and categorizations when responding to Hamas. It accomplishes nothing simply to call the group a bunch of terrorists or a bunch of heroes and to assume that everything flows from that. The proper response is to react to specifics, whether negative or positive.

When a Hamas leader says what Meshal said on Saturday, the remarks should be condemned (and Abbas was delinquent in not doing so). When they say instead what they have said more often about accepting a peace based on 1967 borders, they should be told that they are on the right track. They should be led to understand that the former approach will mean nobody will have reason to have anything to do with them, but with the latter approach they will be accepted as an important interlocutor.

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.)


  8 comments for “Hamas Speech Dampens Peace Hopes

  1. paschn
    December 10, 2012 at 11:26 am


    What’s next? Charging the same for utilities, no more Christian/Muslim holy men/women spat upon, pelted with rocks, etc?


    With the economic screwing the U.S. is gleefully, (apparently), taking from The Rothschild clan, I doubt the they will be able to play “attack dog” for New Khazaria much longer, then what? Chickens coming home to roost? I doubt Christ would be smiling down from on high,…Would he? Bibi?

  2. Rehmat
    December 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    As Helen Thomas said in 2010 – European Jews should return to their motherlands in Europe – because Palestine is not their land. The same year, the Vatican issued its FATWA that the biblical concept of the “Promised Land nor the Chosen People ”doesn’t justify the building of new illegal Jewish settlements nor the occupation of the Holy Land.

    The two-state concept was proposed by the notorious 1917 Balfour Declaration which was ignored by David Ben Gurion in 1948 when he unilaterally declared the establishment of a Zionist state over 56% of the historic Palestine.

    What Meshaal meant was a “single state” for the entire historical Palestine. No one his right mind will expect Meshaal to call for the “wipe of Israel from map”, as Meshaal has already joined the US-Israel-Saudi ‘Axis of Evil’. He is no different than the “double agent” Mahmoud Abbas. It was not Hamas which brought Israel to the negotiating table last month – but Islamic Jihad, by raining Iranian-made rockets and missiles.

    Vatican: Bible doesn’t promise Palestine to Jews


  3. Rehmat
    December 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Israel’s enemy: Netanyahu or Hamas?

    On Saturday, former Zionist prime minister Ehud Olmert said that Netanyahu’s government was taking Israel into unprecedented isolation with its policy on Jewish settlements. “Bibi Netanyahu, is isolating Israel from the entire world in an unprecedented way, and we will pay a high price in every facet of our lives, and the Israeli public should know it,” he said.

    On Saturday, Zionist prime minister Benji Netanyahu condemned remarks by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in which he vowed that Palestinian will never give up one inch of Palestine and told Zionists to disappear. Netanyahu also slammed West Bank president Mahmoud Abbas for his plan to unite with “terrorist Hamas” which is supported by Iran.

    On Sunday, former top soldier of Israel Occupation Force (IOF), General Gabi Ashkenzai called Nteanyahu government to withdraw from the West Bank unilaterally. Gabi claimed that a total separation from PA areas would be in Israel’s interest……


  4. paschn
    December 11, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Nice article from a former IDF officer who has joined the Human Race;


  5. Revo
    December 12, 2012 at 12:33 am

    As long as the reactionary, fanatic leaders of Israel believe in fictions such as that they are their god’s chosen people and their god has given them the title of that land, no body with right mind can believe that they would ever make peace. They use every ceasefire to establish themselves deeper and deeper in the land of Palestine.

  6. borat
    December 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Stop scapegoating Israeli settlements
    Jewish apartment complexes aren’t preventing peace — Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate is

    Back in 2005, Israel uprooted all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza, evicting their 9,000 residents, in order to advance peace.

    In the seven years since,
    • PrintCommentBack in 2005, Israel uprooted all 21 Jewish But in the Israel has been targeted by nearly 9,000 terrorist rockets from Gaza. Clearly, settlements are not the reason. Rather, it is our enemy’s determination to deny the Jewish people the right to independence in our ancestral homeland.
    That is why Palestinian Arabs fought for decades to prevent the establishment of Israel in 1948 and why, over the next 20 years, Arab armies tried to destroy us — before there was a single settlement. That, and not the settlement issue, was why the Palestinians turned down Israeli offers of statehood in the West Bank and Gaza in 2000 and 2008.

    And that is why last month, Hamas in Gaza launched yet more rockets at Israel, and why the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority refused to negotiate with us for the past four years. Instead, it unilaterally declared sovereignty in a UN General Assembly resolution that denied any security for Israel or recognition of it as a Jewish state.

    Israel, for its part, recognizes the Palestinians as a people who could have a state if their leaders agreed to sit with ours and work out the complex issues between us. One of those issues is borders, and it includes the settlements, which have created — to use President Obama’s words — “new demographic realities on the ground.”

    Those realities include Jerusalem neighborhoods built after 1967, home to more than half of the city’s Jewish residents and only a few minutes’ drive from downtown. Successive Israeli governments have insisted that Jerusalem remain Israel’s united capital. “I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress in 2011. “But I believe with creativity and goodwill, a solution can be found.”

    Then there are the West Bank settlements. These communities provide strategic depth to our borders which, before 1967, were as narrow as 8 miles across. But the West Bank — Judea and Samaria — is also the birthplace of our people, our tribal lands. The West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Hebron and Jericho appear in the Bible, but Haifa in modern Israel does not.

    The settlements reflect the right of a people to live in its homeland. We are willing to qualify that right — painfully — if the Palestinians agree to live with us in peace.

    Still, all of the settlements account for a very small percentage of the West Bank. Most of them are concentrated in blocs that have become suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Everyone — Americans, Israelis and Palestinians — understands that these blocs will always remain part of Israel, even if a Palestinian state is negotiated.

    All of the building recently approved by the Israeli government was in Jerusalem and these blocs. So, too, were the preliminary plans for construction in the area known as E1, which were approved last week.

    E1 is a stretch of desert, less than 2 miles long, connecting Jerusalem to its suburb of Maaleh Adumim, home to 40,000 Israelis. Every Israeli prime minister in the past 40 years, including Ehud Olmert and Yitzhak Rabin, has planned to build in E1 in order to prevent Maaleh Adumim’s isolation.

    That construction will not, as the Palestinians claim, divide the West Bank. Just look at a map: E1 in no way obstructs Palestinian Ramallah’s access to Jericho and Bethlehem. In a negotiated two-state solution, short tunnels under E1 can also connect Ramallah with the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
    In his congressional address, Netanyahu acknowledged that “some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders” after a genuine peace agreement. Israel is committed to achieving that goal, and settlements will not be an obstacle. Together with Obama, whose support for Israel’s right to defend itself and demand for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks has been unswerving, we stand ready to do the difficult work of peacemaking.

    Even today, after all the terrorist rockets and denial of our rights, we remain at the negotiating table, waiting for the Palestinians to join us.
    Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

  7. Otto Schiff
    December 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Negotiations require goodwill on both sides.
    Violence and threats wont do it

  8. borat
    December 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Ambassador Michael Oren of Israel said:

    We are horrified and profoundly saddened to learn of the senseless shooting of students and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims’ families, and to the injured we wish a full and speedy recovery.

    Where’s the outrage from the consortinazis and the arab medievalist paradises in the sand?

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