The following by Rabbi Bruce Warshal is courtesy of our khaver, Zel Lurie. My position is somewhat different; as I indicated in the two prior postings, the point is not to negotiate directly with a Hamas government that doesn’t want to negotiate with Israel, but to negotiate with President Mahmoud Abbas, authorised under the Oslo Accords anyway, as head of the PLO, to negotiate with Israel. Still, Rabbi Warshal is correct that making the Palestinian people suffer collectively has not been a good strategy.
I’m just a commentator and I make no pretense to being a sage, but immediately after the Hamas victory in February of last year I wrote: “A disastrous response is to overreact and to cut off all monetary support and contacts with the Palestinian Authority … It is a draconian measure that demands Hamas moderate itself instantaneously.” I pointed out that a United Nations report before the Hamas victory indicted that two-thirds of Gaza residents lived under the poverty line of $2.20 per day. I then wrote: “It is important not to immediately cut off American financial support to the Palestinian Authority because Hamas is now in control. Such precipitous action will only push Hamas into the hands of Iran and other more militant Islamists. We must be careful to strengthen the moderates in Hamas, not to undermine them.”
[But the former is] exactly what the Israeli and American governments did with the urging of the Jewish lobby which pushed through a Congressional resolution that demanded that our government isolate the Hamas regime. Now a year later we realize that all we did was to increase the poverty and despair in Gaza and push Hamas closer to Hezbollah and Iran, even though the latter are Shiite and Hamas is Sunni.
But the realization of this folly is surfacing in Israel where military experts from both the left and right of the political spectrum are beginning to speak out and demand direct negotiations with Hamas. Retired Major General Shlomo Gazit was the chief of military intelligence in 1976 and was the architect of the brilliant Entebbe raid that saved the Jewish hostages held by Idi Amin. He was also Menachem Begin’s military advisor during the peace talks with Egypt. He is now at a think-tank at Tel Aviv University. This past month, speaking of the three conditions laid down on Hamas by Israel and the U.S. (no talks unless it recognizes Israel, swears off violence and accepts previous signed Israeli-Palestinian agreements), Gazit characterized them as “ridiculous, or an excuse not to negotiate.”
Gazit continued: “Only a country that suffers from an inferiority complex demands that everyone like it. We must negotiate on concrete problems – not on declarative issues. I am in favor of starting negotiations today, while the violence continues, and to sign an agreement which will go into effect when it stops. Why should the Palestinians stop fighting us until they know we are willing to make an agreement?”
Ex-Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, who was a top advisor to former prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon, has also come to the same conclusion. The Forward reports: “According to Halevy, Israel should take up Hamas’s offer of a long term truce and try negotiating, because the Islamic movement is respected by Palestinians and generally keeps its word. He pointed to the cease-fire in attacks on Israel that Hamas declared two years ago and has largely honored. ‘They’re not very pleasant people, but they are very, very credible,’ Halevy said.”
We always knew that the PA Prime Minister, Ishmail Haniyeh was open to negotiations, but recent statements by the hard-line Hamas boss who pulls the strings from Damascus, Khaled Meshal, indicate that the time is ripe for a change in Israeli and American policy. Meshal is ready to “respect” previous Palestinian agreements with Israel, but Israel and the U.S. are demanding that Hamas “commit” itself to the agreements. I repeat Gazit’s question – why should Hamas commit itself to anything until it knows what it will get in return? That’s the point of negotiating. I am afraid that we are missing an important opportunity and that the brilliant leadership in Washington and Jerusalem will drive Hamas even closer to its unnatural ally, Iran. (Talking of brilliance, Olmert, in his visit with Bush a few months ago, praised our president for stabilizing the Middle East. Tell that to our troops in Iraq.)
A Footnote on the Debate over President Carter’s Book
Alan Dershowitz has been the most outspoken critic of Carter. His recent column has been emailed to practically everyone who has an email address. In it he attacks Carter’s personal integrity because the Carter Center has received money from Arab sources and Carter once borrowed money from BCCI, a now defunct Arab-owned bank that was “virulently anti-Israel.” He writes: “The entire premise of (Carter’s) criticism of Jewish influence on American foreign policy is that money talks. It is Carter, not me, who has made the point that if politicians receive money from Jewish sources, then they are not free to decide issues regarding the Middle East for themselves. It is Carter, not me, who has argued that distinguished reporters cannot honestly report on the Middle East because they are being paid by Jewish money. So, by Carter’s own standards, it would be almost economically ‘suicidal’ for Carter ‘to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine.’ By Carter’s own standards, therefore, his views on the Middle East must be discounted.”
I agree with Dershowitz’s premise that money buys political support. Our lobbyists in Washington have proved that point. We have the best Congress that money can buy. But this does not apply to Carter. At his Brandeis speech he specifically answered a student’s question concerning financial support for the Carter Center from Arab sources. He responded that he instructed his staff to go through every donation and they found that only two percent of their donations came from Arab sources, and nearly all of that money has gone to development projects in Africa. Furthermore, there has always been transparency. All of their donations have been made public.
This has not stopped Dershowitz from writing that, “It pains me to say this, but I now believe that there is no person in American public life today who has a lower ratio of real to apparent integrity than Jimmy Carter …. He is no better than so many former American politicians who, after leaving public life, sell themselves to the highest bidder and become lobbyists for despicable causes. That is Jimmy Carter’s sad legacy.”
It is apparent that Dershowitz has taken on the hatchet-man mantle for the Jewish establishment. He is to the more sedate Jewish leaders what Nixon was to Eisenhower. What would induce him to take such a stance? Well, I called a Jewish Federation director and asked a simple question – what is Dershowitz’s current speaking fee? He replied that it was between $55,000 to $60,000 per speech. “Who pays that kind of money?” I asked. He replied that it is Jewish Federations and other national Jewish organizations. I would assume that, since Dershowitz speaks frequently throughout the country, he makes much more off the national Jewish establishment than he does from his professorship at Harvard. But, of course, his politics would not be affected by this since he is not an ex-politician.
I am afraid that Dershowitz is in the same position as Newt Gingrich, who was pushing for the impeachment of Clinton at the same time that he was having an affair with his intern, while cheating on his third wife (or was it his second?). The analogy is correct, except that Clinton was actually diddling Monica while President Carter is not guilty of Dershowitz’s slander. But this does not get Dershowitz off the hook, or the Jewish establishment that has apparently bought him.