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Possible Solution for the Hamas Dilemma
Hamas has a right to govern the PLC with their majority of seats. But how exactly should they govern regarding Israel? Sometimes a people reach a fork in the road and face a dilemma that prevents an easy decision as to which path to take. And when that happens, it is worth stopping and pondering how to resolve the dilemma. Then it is easier to make a wise, well-informed decision as to
Tuesday, March 21,2006 00:00
by Kelly Patrick Gerling, PalestineChronicle.com

Hamas has a right to govern the PLC with their majority of seats. But how exactly should they govern regarding Israel?

Sometimes a people reach a fork in the road and face a dilemma that prevents an easy decision as to which path to take. And when that happens, it is worth stopping and pondering how to resolve the dilemma. Then it is easier to make a wise, well-informed decision as to which path to take towards a hopeful future. Americans as a people have, I believe, reached such a fork in the road, as has, it seems, humanity as a whole. And in a crucial part of the world, so have the Palestinians. In the 2006 election for the new Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on January 25th, Hamas won nearly 44 percent of the party vote with 29 of 66 seats; 36.5 percent of the district votes, winning 45 of 66 district seats; and a total majority of 74 seats in the 132 seat PLC. So Hamas has a right to govern the PLC with their majority of seats. But how exactly should they govern regarding Israel?

If the Hamas majority in the PLC pursues negotiations with Israel, while recognizing Israel, they will be going against certain key statements in their own 1988 Covenant. These statements include, from the Preamble: "Israel will exist until Islam obliterates it, as it obliterated others before it;" and from Article XIII: "Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement . . . Jihad is the only solution for the Palestinian question." Furthermore, by pursuing negotiations and recognition of Israel they may also be seen as bowing to outside financial, economic and military pressure to abandon these statements, and so be relectant to change them due to outside pressure.

On the other hand, if Hamas stands by these key provisions of their Covenant, they will not know if the voters who elected them intended them to govern with a strict adherence to the above-stated provisions of their Covenant. That’s because during the campaign leading up the election, there was "no reference to the liberation of all of Palestine in the Hamas election manifesto" but stated the intent to "establish of an independent state whose capital is Jerusalem." (1) So maintaining their Covenant stance regarding their intentions towards Israel may be contrary to the views of the majority of Palestinians. Why? Because they might have voted Hamas into Parliament for reasons other than these kinds of Covenant statements regarding Israel. For example, many who voted for Hamas may have done so for their lack of corruption, their discipline, their social services, or their domestic agenda, and may actually have a two-state solution in mind in disagreement with the statements above regarding Israel (and others similar to them), in the Hamas Covenant. If this is true, withstanding the enormous outside pressure, along with the pressure from an internal disagreeing Palestinian popular majority will, in the long run, create a political weakness for Hamas that outside groups and their internal political opponents can exploit.

In summary, if they pursue negotiations while recognizing Israel, they betray key parts of their 1988 Covenant—and if they maintain their Covenant position of not recognizing Israel and intend to destroy pre-1967 Israel, or intend to take it over demographically, they may be acting against the will of the majority of Palestinians. That’s the dilemma.

Meanwhile, pressure on Hamas from the outside is growing.

The Israeli cabinet said that ". . . the PA is ‘in practice’- becoming a terrorist authority" and that "Israel will not hold contacts with the administration in which Hamas plays any part."

Furthermore, the Israeli Cabinet stated they wanted from the Palestinian Authority:

". . . two states for two peoples living side-by-side in stability, security, and peace.. . . Recognition of the State of Israel and abrogation of the Hamas Covenant, the renunciation of terrorism and the dismantling of terrorist infrastructures (by adopting the Roadmap and accepting its principles), and recognizing all understandings and agreements between Israel and the Palestinians." (2)
The Quartet of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN said this on the matter:

". . . all members of a future Palestinian government must be committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap." Furthermore, the Quartet "reaffirmed its commitment to a just, comprehensive, and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based upon U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338." (3)

US government pressure will continue to come from many sources including a 418 to 1 House vote (S Con Res 79 on February 15, 2006) which states that "no United States assistance will be provided directly to the Palestinian Authority if any representative political party holding a majority of parliamentary seats within the Palestinian Authority maintains a position calling for the destruction of Israel." (4)

Plus, the Arab League wants Hamas to accept their initiative from March 2002 that proposes recognition of Israel within pre-1967 borders.

A key factor in finding a solution to the dilemma for Hamas is the intent of the their leaders regarding their goals and their preferred means of achieving them. In general, an intention is an unfulfilled part of a plan. There is some indication of a willingness by Hamas to adopt a revised plan in the form of recognition of Israel in some form or within some boundaries reflecting some adjusted intentions. For example, one Hamas member reportedly suggested that the group is ready to "offer Israel a formal truce for a number of years, during which a peace deal can be negotiated ending in a two-state solution." (5)

And there are others. For example, Majority Leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said this in January: "Negotiation is not taboo. The political crime is when we sit with the Israelis and then come out with a wide smile to tell the Palestinian people that there is progress, when in fact, there is not."

How can the leaders of Hamas make this momentous and consequential decision about the recognition of Israel and subsequent pursuit of or abandonment of negotiations without seeming to yield to outside pressures or be ignoring real world consequences? That is to say also, how can they resolve their dilemma?

In conflict resolution procedures in many societies, a way out of a break down in progress towards a negotiatied solution can take the form of intervention from an authority from outside of the conflicted group. With a family this can be an elder from some part of the extended family, or a judge, or a religious leader. In the case of the Hamas dilemma, one possible authority outside of the PLC is the body of Palestinian voters. One possible way to resolve the dilemma is to solicit the advice of the Palestinian people. This can be accomplished with an advisory policy referendum. The leaders in Hamas and the other legislators in the PLC can let the people speak about their desires in going forward. And the members of the PLC can then demonstrate their commitment to democracy and listen to them.

Indeed, there are recent trends in this direction. On March 12, Al-Jazeera reported that Hamas posted a “draft government programme” to its website which says this in its Article V:

“The question of recognising Israel is not the jurisdiction of one faction, nor the government, but a decision for the Palestinian people.” (6)

Furthermore, the English-version of Al-Jazeera’s website conducted an on-line poll asking “Should the issue of recognising Israel be put to Palestinians in referendum?” It was answered by 16,926 people, of whom, 78 percent said yes. (7)

If Hamas and the PA can find another way out of their dilemma, I hope they find it. As I write this article however, they have not.

If the PA creates an advisory policy referendum, they could ask the voters three questions. One question would propose an anti-recognition choice that affirms those parts of the Hamas Covenent mentioned above, and other parts that are similar. A second question could affirm parts of or all of the many proposals that define a two-state solution to the conflict such as UNSC Resolution 242, the Road Map, the Geneva Accord, and others. And it could include parts of the Hamas Covenent that seem to support the two-state solution such as “it is possible for the followers of the three religions—Islam, Christianity and Judaism—to coexist in peace and quiet with each other.” A third question, just to be fair to the voters, could offer the choice: “None of the Above.” I cannot pretend to know exactly what the wording of a referendum should be (of even if it is a good idea for that matter). That is up to the Palestinian Authority to decide.

If the “no recognition” question won, Hamas could keep their Covenent the way it is and see how that works out concerning the interests of the Palestinian people. If the two-state question won, Hamas might decide to revise their Covenent accordingly so as to recognize Israel, according to how the question was written, presumably within pre-1967 borders. If the “None of the Above” question won, they can do some polling and rewrite the referendum and conduct it again to get a definitive result. In any case, the decision on which direction to take on the path before the Palestinian people is a singular and momenteous choice regarding intentions. With the well-being of millions of Palestinians at stake, if Hamas and the PA decides to take the lead and pursue such a referendum on this pivotal question, and does so unilaterally, that is, not contingent on something they require Israel to do as a precondition, such an act of giving the Palestinian people the final word would be a demonstration of democracy heard around the world.

-Kelly Patrick Gerling is a psychologist specializing in leadership and conflict resolution. His practice involves mediation for conflict resolution as well as helping organizations discover and practice their values through Values Based® Leadership. He can be reached through his website is www.leadershipproject.net. He lives in Kansas, in the United States, and he hopes Americans will end the so-called “global war on terror” and work with other nations and peoples to replace it with a vigorous, enforceable, fair, and legitimate system of the global rule of law, so the world can become safe for diversity, and achieve a very long peace. The peoples of the Earth have better things to do on our problem-filled planet than fighting each other in endless, hate-producing, escalating cycles of illegal violence.

Notes:

1. Will Hamas ever recognise Israel? By Martin Asser, February 7, 2006. BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4686844.stm
2. Israeli Cabinet Statement, February 19, 2006. http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2006/Cabinet+Communique+19-Feb-2006.htm
3. Quartet Statement on the Situation in the Middle East, Press Statement, Sean McCormack, Spokesman, Washington, DC, January 30, 2006, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2006/60068.htm
4. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:S.Con.Res.79:|TOM:/bss/d109query.html|
5. Will Hamas ever recognise Israel? By Martin Asser, February 7, 2006. BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4686844.stm
6. Hamas draft government programme. Al-Jazeera, March 12, 2006. http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/E8BCCCDD-4929-4B21-B04D-313F42AF31D5.htm
7. Should the issue of recognising Israel be put to Palestinians in a referendum? Al-Jazeera, March 2006. http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/890500CB-E84E-4E17-ACB5-768A7FBF3670.htm


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