After more than a month’s suspension, peace talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are expected to resume this week. Abbas halted talks after Israel began its violent response to rocket attacks from Hamas fighters in Gaza.
However, with Palestine’s sharp division between Fatah and Hamas, peace negotiations that exclude Hamas are futile. Israel cannot be at war with some Palestinians while attempting to make peace with the rest.
And Hamas has shown that as long as it is excluded from the peace negotiations, it will continue to thwart attempts to create a two-state solution.
To pull from recent events, on March 31 Hamas police and supporters beat protestors, including female students, at a Hamas rally in Al Azhar University, the last Fatah stronghold in Gaza.
On April 1, a “New York Times” article discussed Hamas’ use of anti-Jew rhetoric in mosques, on children’s television programs and elsewhere, to incite hatred and violence against them. Their control over propaganda and education threatens to be a long-term barrier to peace.
While it is understandable that many people see such detestable actions as legitimate reasons to exclude Hamas from peace negotiations, their exclusion is, more than anything, dangerous. The more Israel has isolated Gaza, the more powerful Hamas has become. Thus, instead of imposing an embargo and military strikes on Gaza, Israel should be communicating with Hamas.
In a letter to the editor response to the April 1 article, Susan Hussein argued, “Propaganda works only if it jibes with reality, and the reality for children in Gaza is grim, hungry, isolated and dangerous to the point that most children doubt that they will grow up. It’s not hard for extremists to convince them an evil outside agent is responsible.”
A March 6 “New York Times” article showed the accuracy of Hussein’s description of the conditions in Gaza
“A report by eight British-based relief and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, UK says the humanitarian situation in Gaza is now the worst it has been since the Israeli occupation began in 1967. The report said 80 percent of Gaza’s 1.5 million people were dependent on food aid, compared with 63 percent in 2006,” the article said.
Furthermore, a poll cited by the New York Times conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research reveals that current conditions in Gaza are, in fact, resulting in increased support of Hamas and violence.
According to one poll of 1,270 Palestinians in face-to-face interviews, 46 percent said they would vote Abbas for president, while 47 percent chose Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. Three months ago, Mr. Abbas was ahead 56 percent to 37 percent.
Another poll revealed that 64 percent of the Palestinians support the thousands of rockets that have been launched on Israeli towns. According to the article, in the 15 years pollster Khalil Shikaki has been surveying in Palestine, a majority has never before favored the shooting of rockets at Israel.
Unlike Hussein, Shikaki explains the shift in favor of violence in terms of Israel’s militant, rather than economic, actions.
“Recent actions by Israel, especially attacks on Gaza that killed nearly 130 people, an undercover operation in Bethlehem that killed four militants and the announced expansion of several West Bank settlements, have led to despair and rage among average Palestinians who thirst for revenge,” he said.
It is clear that in order for peace to be pursued between Israel and Palestine, Israel must stop inflicting economic and military destruction upon Gaza, and Hamas must stop launching rockets into Israel. Such negotiations require Hamas’ inclusion in the peace process.
Mary Ackerson is a senior political science major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collgian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.