In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US with the support of the international community launched the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), positioning Islamist terrorists in the center of this war (Raghavan, pp. 149-150). However, the GWOT did not make a strategic distinction between Salafi-jihadist groups waging global jihad, such as al Qaeda (AQ), and others Islamist movements regarded by the majority within the Muslim world as resistance movements fighting Israeli occupation and enjoy considerable popular support, such as HAMAS and Hezbollah. Instead, the US has sought to weaken HAMAS and undermine its control of Gaza, arguing that weak HAMAS is well positioned within the overall war against Islamist terrorism.
Therefore, the international community boycotted HAMAS and enforced complete blockade against the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza Strip under HAMAS control, following its violent takeover of the Strip in 2008 at the heal of domestic dispute with its rival Fattah. The Gaza blockade and the human suffering, combined with the worldwide financial crackdown against HAMAS financings, have angered the Muslim public opinion, which considered the GWOT a war against Islam.
Due to the significance that Palestine has assumed in Islamic discourse for more than half a century, AQ has used Palestine to be at the heart of its propaganda campaign against the West. The genuine evolution of HAMAS from a terrorist group to an insurgency abiding by the laws of armed conflict in its fight against Israel deserves a review of US strategy towards the group. Removing HAMAS from the list of FTO will better serve the GWOT by improving the relations with the Muslim world, isolating AQ, and deprive it from one of its major weapons to gain sympathy and support for its terrorism
1- Understanding HAMAS
It is essential for US policy makers to recognize the ideological roots of the HAMAS movement, and the Islamic framework of its identity in order to formulate an effective strategy that further pushes the movement into the path of moderation, away from terrorist tactics. Without some knowledge of Islamic reasoning and discourse, actions and statements by HAMAS and other Islamist organizations will remain opaque and meaningless, and the West will remain oblivious to significant developments on the part of its adversaries. This is not arguing that everything HAMAS or one of its officials says should be taken at face, instead, pointing out that HAMAS, within its own frame of reference, is signaling real shifts that are understood in the Arab and Islamic world. If Israel and the West wish to attempt to coexist peacefully with HAMAS, which is itself not at all a given, they must develop the capability to understand its language (Scham & Ibn-Irshaid, 2009, p. 15)
HAMAS, known in Arabic as Harakat al Muqawama al Islamiyya (the Islamic Resistance Movement), was first established by a group of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders in the Gaza Strip led by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as the first Palestinian intifada (uprising) erupted in mid-December 1987 (Scham & Ibn-Irshaid, 2009, p. 4). Therefore, it’s critical to recognize the fact that HAMAS since its inception has been embedded in the culture and jurisprudence of the Muslim Brotherhood (p. 17). Therefore, HAMAS's traditional projection of itself as an uncompromising resistance movement, and the popularity it has derived from its resistance to the Israeli occupation (Hroub, 2006, p.10). Although many Palestinians do not necessarily identify with HAMAS’s Islamist ideology, they are nonetheless sympathetic to the movement and its role within their society, particularly because HAMAS is not perceived to be tainted by corruption (Malka, 2005, p.43)
Less than a year later, HAMAS issued its charter (or covenant), which has continued to define the organization in Western eyes. Scham and Ibn-Irshaid in their critique of HAMAS’s Charter argued that the Charter, drawn up less than a year after the movement was established in direct response to the outbreak of the first intifada and when its raison d’être was armed resistance to the occupation (Hroub, 2006, p. 7), is an unapologetically hard-line document that vividly promises destruction to Israel. Article 1 of the charter characterizes HAMAS as an Islamic movement, with “Islam as its doctrine and source of notions, concepts, and perceptions regarding the universe, life, and man; and by which HAMAS’s conduct is governed, inspired, and guided righteously.” Article 2 defines HAMAS’s ideological identity and orientation as an extension of the intellectual school of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is referred to as “a global organization, the largest Islamic movement in the modern era, [which] features deep understanding, precise perception, and a comprehensive approach to all Islamic concepts in various spheres of life.”(p. 5)
Thus, HAMAS’s conceptual framework, including its approach to Palestinian nationalism, is unequivocally rooted in Islam. For example, Article 11 of the charter affirms “that the land of Palestine is an Islamic waqf (trust) endowed for Muslim generations until the Day of Resurrection, and should not be compromised entirely or partially, or relinquished entirely or partially.” Article 13 states that “various initiatives of [settlement], and the so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences to resolve the Palestinian
issue contradict the tenets of the Islamic Resistance Movement, as compromising any
part of Palestine is equivalent to the omission of a part of our religion.” Hence, according
to the same article: “[There is] no solution to the Palestinian cause save jihad (religious
struggle); for initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are nothing but
a waste of time and absurd nonsense; and the Palestinian people are too dignified and
righteous to allow tampering with its future, rights and self-determination.”
In HAMAS’s communiqué of December 7, 1993, issued to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the intifada, the movement reiterated that “jihad is the only way to liberate Palestine, and that force is the only language of understanding with the enemy.”
HAMAS was organized on the basis of rejecting Israel and its existence. Article 9
defines the objectives of HAMAS—“fighting, humiliating, and defeating untruth in order
for truth to prevail; wresting the homeland.” It states further that “from its mosques,
the call for prayer [adhan] shall start over announcing the establishment of the state of
Islam.” This is reasserted in HAMAS’s twenty-eighth communiqué, issued on August 18,
1988, which states that “Palestine is Islamic from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan]
river” and that HAMAS’s purpose is the liberation of “Palestine, all of Palestine.”
A simple reading certainly suggests that declared ideology of rejecting Israel and denying its right to exist necessarily mean, in practice, that it is impossible to deal with HAMAS or come to terms with its ideological and political discourse that is
the case. Nevertheless, as Scham and Ibn-Irshaid continued to argue, these hard-line, unequivocal assertions do not necessarily reflect the movement’s current positions, which have evolved over time. They further argued that there is a wide disparity between the movement’s early ideological assertions, which were composed at its inception, and much of its everyday political conduct and discourse. Indeed, the movement’s actions and direction cannot be understood without recognizing this distinction (p. 5)
Furthermore, Scham and Ibn-Irshaid argued that HAMAS’s literature and statements during the movement’s early years reflect a genuine confusion over how to deal with Jews, a confusion which has been resolved by the eventual adoption of a much clearer position that reflects hostility to actions by Jews against Palestinians and not hostility to Jews simply on the basis of belief or because they are Jewish (p. 6)
2- HAMAS and the recognition of Israel
Scham & Ibn-Irshaid in 2009, explained that the issue or recognizing Israel is much bigger than HAMAS, and one of the most sensitive and dangerous issues for the entire Muslim world. According to the tenets of Shari‘a, it is unlawful to recognize Israel since it is founded on aggression, injustice, and the usurpation of Muslim land—that is, Palestine. This view is supported by dozens of fatwas (Islamic edicts) by Muslim scholars who have prohibited the recognition of Israel under any circumstance. Palestine’s land, according to these scholars, constitutes a waqf, and no portion of it may be surrendered, of whatever size and thus cannot be ruled by non-Muslims (p. 9). Moreover, it is particularly sacred because it contains the third most important city for Muslims, after Mecca and Medina.
Therefore, according to Scham & Ibn-Irshaid, for HAMAS, “recognition” of Israel would represent a negation of the rightness of its own cause and would be indefensible under Islam. Furthermore, HAMAS’s incessant declarations that it will never recognize Israel are based on the overwhelming preponderance of Islamic jurisprudence on the subject. Recognition would be a matter of grave theological and political import that affects the whole Islamic world (p. 16)
Although HAMAS, as an Islamic organization, will not transgress Shari‘a, which it understands as forbidding recognition, it has formulated mechanisms that allow it to deal with the reality of Israel as a fait accompli. These mechanisms include the religious concepts of tahadiya and hudna and HAMAS’s own concept of “Palestinian legitimacy.” A tahadiya stopped most violence between HAMAS and Israel from June to December 2008.
Hudna is a truce for a specific period, which is based on the practice of the Prophet Mohammad and on subsequent events in Muslim history. HAMAS has indicated on a number of occasions its willingness to accede to a hudna with Israel, assuming basic Palestinian rights as set forth in the Arab Peace Initiative (API) are agreed to first. However, since there is a consensus among Muslim jurists that an open-ended or, more specifically, a permanent hudna is prohibited, because in their reasoning is that a hudna without a time certain will lead to the nullification of jihad, therefore according to HAMAS, hudna with Israel expresses the continuity of conflict, but does not convey an end to the conflict (p.11)
Moreover, though HAMAS would not directly participate in peace negotiations with Israel, HAMAS has indicated that it would be willing to be part of a Palestinian coalition government with Fatah under which Fatah would negotiate the actual treaty.
Understanding the Islamic bases of HAMAS’s policies and worldview will be essential for the success of any process in which it is engaged (Scham & Ibn-Irshaid, p. 3)
3- Current Western strategy towards HAMAS
HAMAS was listed by the US as Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), the US government refused to deal with Palestinian government formed by democratically elected HAMAS following its landslide victory in free and transparent legislative elections in 2006. At a White House press conference with Abbas held on May 26, 2005, President George W. Bush reiterated the U.S. stance that HAMAS is a terrorist organization that must be dismantled, stating that “[o]ur position on Hamas is very clear, it’s a well-known position and it hasn’t changed. …HAMAS is a terrorist group, it’s on a terrorist list for a reason.” This has been the U.S. position since the organization was designated a “Terrorist Organization Which Threatens To Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process” by Executive Order 12947 on January 23, 1995, and by the U.S. Department of State as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” since 1997 (Malka, 2005, p. 50)
However, the EU and U.S. diverge on policies toward militant Islamist groups like Hezbollah and HAMAS (p. 10). Officially, the EU does not communicate with HAMAS, although over the past year, there has been a softening in the European position, with France admitting to having had contacts with the group. British, Italian, and Greek members of parliament have met with HAMAS officials in early 2009. Despite increasing international pressure to alter its position, the United States, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, has so far refused to talk to HAMAS until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel (Hamid & Kadlek, 2010, p. 11)
Furthermore, Scham & Ibn-Irshaid in 2009 contended that the strategy of both the United States and Israel was and still is based on the following assumptions:
- HAMAS is irrevocably opposed to recognizing or coming to terms with Israel’s existence
- Economic, political, and military pressure will affect the Hamas regime either by prying away its popular base, forcing it to modify its behavior significantly, destroying it as an organization.
- Direct talks with HAMAS are pointless and likely to be counterproductive, because
there is nothing to talk about. This assumption is reinforced by HAMAS’s virtually
identical stance with regard to its talking with Israel, though HAMAS is eager to talk
with the United States (pp. 3-4)
Moreover, the “Quartet” (consisting of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations), which had a role in overseeing Palestinian-Israeli negotiations,
enunciated three conditions that had to be accepted by HAMAS in order for sanctions
to be lifted and for it to be accepted as a player in the Palestinian-Israeli political
process. Hamas had to:
(1) recognize the right of Israel to exist
(2) repudiate violence and “terrorism” (which HAMAS considers legitimate resistance)
(3) recognize previously signed agreements between the PLO and Israel—agreements that HAMAS had consistently rejected (Scham & Ibn-Irshaid, p. 13).
This represents a common dynamic in Western responses to Muslim and Arab approaches—that is, demanding clear, explicit, and unambiguous language.
Such language is the norm in the West but not in the Middle East, where indirection and
nuance are often used to indicate change, largely in order to spare the party making the
change from public humiliation (p. 13)
Therefore, the West’s strategy towards HAMAS is based on isolation, even though HAMAS has been elected to government. In doing so, the West has imposed policy of collective retribution against the Palestinian people for their democratic choice, especially those living in Gaza. However, the costs of collective retribution outweigh the benefits, and therefore can’t be an effective deterrent. As Colby in 2008 explained, such policy “has the potential to radicalize fence-sitting populations, alienate public opinion, ease al Qaeda efforts to establish common cause with other groups, generate anti-Americanism, weaken friendly states” (p. 52).
Furthermore, what weakens the US war on terrorism when it includes Palestinian terrorism is lack of clear definition of terrorism itself by the international community. Following the attacks of September 11, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League (AL) stressed their empathy for the Palestinians and reiterated their positions rejecting “any linkage between terrorism and Islamic and Arab peoples, including the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples, right to self-determination, self-defense, sovereignty, resistance against Israeli and foreign occupation, all of which are legitimate rights enshrined in the UN Charter and international law” (Miskel, 2004)
4- HAMAS’s Evolution
The evolution of HAMAS from predominately terrorist organization—based on Western definition—into an insurgency fighting an illegal occupation, began in the fall of 2004, and took shape in two major aspects: Political strategies and military tactics.
A- Political strategies:
In 2004, HAMAS decided to participate in the Palestinian municipal elections, which
were held in four stages in 2005. HAMAS’s candidates met with considerable electoral
success, despite strong opposition by Fatah. Running municipalities fit nicely within HAMAS’s ideology of providing daily services to the needy Palestinians and shoring up its grassroots support. However, from its establishment, HAMAS had steadfastly refused to run in any national elections, either for PC or for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority (PA), as both these structures grew out of the Oslo accords, which HAMAS opposed and considered illegitimate, it had never recognized the legitimacy of either (Hroub, 2006, p. 6). Therefore, when HAMAS announced in 2005, its intention to participate in the Palestinian legislative elections, it was a surprise for both its friends and foes. HAMAS’s participation in legislative elections represented a de facto acceptance of the Oslo Accords. Furthermore, HAMAS’s participation would necessarily require Hamas to deal with Israel and the international community and engage in political compromises, which are a major shift in HAMAS’s attitude (Scham & Ibn-Irshaid, 2009, p.12). However, for HAMAS, participation in the legislative elections falls within its comprehensive program for the liberation of Palestine, the return of the Palestinian people to their homeland, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Furthermore, this participation [in the elections] was a means of supporting the resistance and the intifada program, which the Palestinian people have approved as its strategic option to end the occupation (Hroub, 2006, p. 8).
However, HAMAS’s landslide victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections of January 2006 came as an unwelcome and unexpected shock to both Middle Eastern and international regimes, with the organization winning nearly 58 percent of the Palestinian Legislative Council seats (p. 3). HAMAS attempts to form a National Unity Government along with Fattah movement and other factions, failed due to domestic and international pressure (Hroub, 2006, p. 16), which led HAMAS to form its own government, but was quickly boycotted by the West and Israel. However, during the run off for legislative elections in the fall of 2005, and in the course of negotiating National Unity Government in March of 2006, to forming its own government, HAMAS has produced three important documents: the 2005 electoral program; the 2006’s draft National Unity Government program, and government platform after the collapse of coalition talks, as presented by Prime Minister-elect Ismail Haniyeh in his inaugural address to the Palestinian Council (PC) on 27 March.
The three documents reveal beyond question that the demands of the national arena have driven HAMAS in dramatically new directions, and represent in themselves an evolution in HAMAS's political thinking toward pragmatism and the Palestinian "mainstream”, compared to its radical Charter (Hroub, 2006, p. 7 & 25). HAMAS’s electoral platform , which chose “Change and Reform” as its slogan, focused primarily on domestic issues, with particular emphasis on governance and reform and was designed to carry out exactly the kinds of reform that had been demanded by Western governments and financial institutions (Hroub, 2006, p. 11). Furthermore, though the language of the electoral platform overall is secular and bureaucratic, with the virtual absence of military resistance from the platform, the religious references that it does contain fuelled suspicions (arising from HAMAS's origins and history) that the movement was quietly working toward its true agenda, the Islamization of society. For its part, HAMAS justifies its Islamic language and positions on the grounds that they reflect the true nature and aspirations of society (Hroub, 2006, p. 15 & 19).
Moreover, HAMAS’s problematic previous rejection of international agreements on Palestine signed by PLO, was transformed into a more moderate approach expressed by HAMAS’s government Prime Minister Ismail Hanieyh who stated that “The government [HAMAS] will deal with the international resolutions [on the Palestine issue] with national responsibility and in accordance with protecting the immutable rights of our people.", which represent a major shift on HAMAS's part, showing an obvious attempt to maintain a delicate balance between appeasing international observers and HAMAS's own constituency (Hroub, 2006, p. 17)
Most importantly, the entire HAMAS’ government platform, is based on the concept of the two-state solution according to the 1967 borders, without a hint of the "liberation of the entire land of Palestine" or "the destruction of Israel" or even “armed struggle” found in the Charter (Hroub, 2006, p.17 & 22). HAMAS’s government went further and declared for the first time its intention to deal with Israeli officials, assuring Israel of non-belligerence and smooth interaction, when Prime Minister Haniyeh announced in a major departure from its 1988 Charter "The government and relevant ministries will take into consideration the interests and needs of our people and the mechanisms of daily life, thus dictating necessary contacts with the occupation in all mundane affairs: business, trade, health, and labor.".
Thus, evidence that HAMAS had implicitly responded positively to some of the demands to comply with international order, was by no means sufficient for the West and Israel to recognize or acknowledge any progress. Presumably they understood that HAMAS could never accede to their demands directly and publicly; that would be understood by HAMAS’s friends and enemies alike as surrender of its ideological identity and virtually an end to its raison d’être (Scham & Ibn-Irshaid, 2009). Thus, although HAMAS had, in its own frame of reference, moved its position significantly closer to what the Quartet demanded, this was not understood, accepted, or valued because, in Western terms, it clearly did not represent an unambiguous acceptance of the Quartet’s demands.
B. Military tactics
In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks by Islamist terrorists, HAMAS suspended its attacks against Israel, especially its suicide attacks, and sought to maintain a low profile and avoid being targeted by the war on terrorism (Malka, 2005, p. 41). However, for HAMAS, there is no contradiction between political activity and military activity; both, they claim, go hand in hand as dual parts of the resistance. In fact, HAMAS believes that military action and resistance will strengthen the Palestinian political and negotiating position. As Masha’al has stated, “[N]egotiating without resistance leads to surrender but negotiating with resistance leads to real peace. Therefore, HAMAS will never give up its military struggle against Israel, as long as Israel existed.
However, what has evolved in HAMAS’s military strategy is refraining from using terrorist tactics, specifically suicide attacks targeting Israeli civilians, and restricting its military operations against Israeli military targets, and within the parameters of armed struggle. This evolution in HAMAS’s military tactics was caused by the following factors:
1) HAMAS’s desire to gain international legitimacy, recognition and support for its cause.
HAMAS’s new strategy to win international recognition was fueled by its ascent to power after its victory in legislative elections, and its desire to present itself to the world as moderate governing political party, which might result to an end of its economic and diplomatic blockade by the international community. Furthermore, gaining popular support is one of the insurgents’ most important strategies to ensure the success of their operations (O’Neill, p. 49), and a key to overcome the deficiencies of their military power in face of government’s resources superiority (p. 93).
Gaining popular support can be decisive factor in achieving final victory for an insurgency even when the government forces win on the battlefield, as in the case of Algerian insurgents against French forces (p. 54). Civilian support is the essential element of successful guerrilla operations employed by insurgents, and renders them hard to subdue and control (p. 94). As Ignatieff in 2002 argued that targeting civilians would alienate valuable support. Furthermore, according to Bard O’Neill popular support to insurgents could take the form of passive or active support, with the latter being the most important kind (p. 95).. What counts as valuable support depends critically on whether the struggle needs international approval to succeed. Struggles that need such support may be more willing to subject themselves to ethical restraint than those that believe they can win on their own terms.
2) Distancing itself from Salfi-Jihadi Islamist groups, such as AQ, and other groups operating in Palestinian territories.
In order for HAMAS to evade being an immediate target in the GWOT, and portray itself as a liberation movement resisting occupation, HAMAS had to practice a different form of violence than that often used by AQ, including suicide attacks and targeting civilians. Instead HAMAS ameliorated Hezbollah’s successful model of guerrilla warfare against Israel, while running for elections and participating in governments (Malka, 2005, p. 43).
According to Hoffman, guerilla warfare although share the same tactics as terrorism, it “refers to numerically larger group of armed individuals, who operates a military unity, attack enemy military forces [hit -and -run style], and seize and hold territory, while exercising some form of sovereignty or control over a defined geographical area and its population” (p. 35). Hoffman argued that the distinction between guerilla warfare and modern terrorism is important because while the latter is condemned the former can be considered legitimate in certain cases such as fighting a foreign occupation or to attain independence. However, an overlap does exist between the two (p. 36).
Within the context of seeking international recognition as legitimate liberation movement fighting occupation, HAMAS seemed to have abandoned its reliance on terrorism to achieve political gain. Furthermore, HAMAS’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, provided the movement with a territory to defend, and needed to be branded an insurgency waging guerrilla warfare against Israel.
3) Qaradawi’s revisions concerning jihad
In order to maintain legitimacy and credibility among its supporters, HAMAS, as nationalist movement embedded in Islamic ideology, always sought to justify its actions or ideological shifts within Islamic jurisprudence. The Islamic justification of HAMAS’s tactical shift leading to its military evolution away from terrorism and more towards guerrilla warfare against occupation, was provided by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, probably the single most influential living Sunni Islamist figure and closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, in his 2009 book entitled Fiqh al-Jihad (The Jurisprudence of Jihad) which decisively repudiates al Qaeda's conception of jihad as a "mad declaration of war upon the world." (Lynch, 2009).
Qaradawi also offers an intriguing broadening of the concept of jihad, away from violence to the realm of ideas, media, and communication -- which he calls the "jihad of the age." The weapons of this jihad should be TV, the internet, email and the like rather than guns. Persuading Muslims of the message of Islam and the importance of this jihad in the path of God should be the first priority, he argues: "the jihad of the age, a great jihad, and a long jihad." He also goes into great detail about the different forms of jihad, the need for pragmatism, and the diverse nature of possible relations between Muslims and non-Muslims (Lynch, 2009).
Therefore, it’s fair to argue that HAMAS’s vision of waging jihad has broadened to include the greater jihad, which is the building an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, after succumbing to the reality that it will not be able to defeat Israel militarily—the lesser jihad.
While the 9/11 attacks occurred in the U.S., the casualties came from approximately 80 countries and any reprisals have the potential to impact the people of many nations (Gray & Wilson, 2006, p. 33). Despite the psychological barriers erected as a result of the war on terrorism, U.S. policymakers must adjust to the new realities taking shape in the Palestinian political arena (Malka, 2005, p. 51).
The genuine evolution of HAMAS, which began in 2005 following its landslide victory in legislative elections, from resistance movement using terrorist tactics to an insurgency using guerrilla warfare, and abiding by Laws of Armed Conflict, deserves a reassessment by the U.S. of its strategy towards the movement. Engaging HAMAS and removing it from the list of FTO, which many observers challenge its fairness (Best, 2001, p. 8), will result in an end to the blockade of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, deprive AQ and other Islamist terrorists from their main weapon in their anti-American rhetoric, and remove a major hurdle in reaching an international agreement on the definition of terrorism.
Furthermore, Western governments can improve their image in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims by demonstrating a willingness to engage popular Islamist movements, and that they are serious about democracy promotion. A “strategic dialogue with HAMAS allows Western governments to influence Islamist groups to respect regional security interests, including Israeli security, Iraqi stability, and combating terrorist groups” (Hamid & Kadlek, 2010, p. 12)
Without doubt, there are many who remain highly skeptical of HAMAS's new face, suspecting a ploy to gain power by concealing true agendas. But it is equally true that the "new" discourse of diluted religious content-to say nothing of the movement's increasing pragmatism and flexibility in the political domain-reflects genuine and cumulative changes within HAMAS. Whether HAMAS would destroy the system given the opportunity remains subject to speculation.
However, with the ever mounting external pressures on HAMAS, in the form both of ceaseless Israeli attacks on the Palestinians to embarrass the government and of United States-led Western cutting of aid to the Palestinian people and efforts to isolate the government, the chances of aborting the natural development of a "new HAMAS" appear great.
Historically, the U.S. has dealt with persons and groups that have engaged in terrorist activities, when they have been accepted as leaders of sovereign states that the U.S. might find it necessary to cooperate with to accomplish important national goals. Dealing with such leaders is distasteful, even abhorrent, but some observers will see it necessary (Best, 2001, p. 8).
In recent history, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. has made a distinction between the secular Ba’athist Party insurgents who stage guerrilla-like hit-and –run operations or carrying out attacks using IEDs, and the foreign terrorists belonging to al Qaeda who are responsible for suicide attacks and beheadings (Hoffman, p. 36). Because of that distinction, it became part of the US policy in Iraq to negotiate with Sunni insurgents, for example members of al Sahwa (awakening) councils, and invited them to participate in the political process and armed them to fight al Qaeda, a strategy that has been proven very effective in weakening al Qaeda in Iraq and saving US lives according to General David Petraeus.
Much as President Ronald Reagan did with the PLO during his administration’s final days in office, the US should set out clear and unambiguous guidelines for a political dialogue with HAMAS. If HAMAS agrees to suspend its terrorist attacks and is able to impose discipline on its military cadres, enforce rule of law, and accept the parameters of a negotiated agreement with Israel leading to the creation of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, the United States should reconsider its position of banning contacts with HAMAS’s political leadership, tone down rhetoric calling for its elimination, consequently removing it from list of FTO, and resolve HAMAS’s future as a military organization another day.
Such strategic engagement should be viewed as part of the global war on terrorism and not a softening of U.S. resolve (Malka, 2005, p.51). Weakening HAMAS within the Palestinian territory will create a vacuum were Salfi-Jihadi groups are striving for decades to have a foot and export Islamist terrorism within Israel’s borders. HAMAS not only can constitute a safeguard against AQ attempts to gain access to Israel, but also an ideological barrier against the infiltration of AQ ideology within Palestinian society (Levitt & Cohen, 2010)
Finally, one way to reduce terrorism is to create incentives for liberation movements to comply with the Geneva Conventions during armed struggle and to penalize them, with international ostracism, when they do not (Ignatieff, 2002, p. 1154)
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