On the heels of a debate Tuesday night where he argued that the United States should maintain a normal, rather than special, relationship with Israel, columnist Roger Cohen has a provocative piece in tomorrow’s International Herald Tribune essentially recapitulating his central point: that, even as President Obama decries settlements, in effect the United States is supporting the settlement policy that will eventually lead to the end of the Zionist dream, as a two-state solution becomes completely unfeasible.
Maybe most notably, Cohen suggests some form of U.S. engagement with Hamas, in much the same way that it was willing to engage with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah before it had ceased to call for the destruction of Israel. Cohen writes:
Obama needs to work harder on overcoming Palestinian division, a prerequisite for peace, rather than playing the no-credible-interlocutor Israeli game. The Hamas charter is vile. But the breakthrough Oslo accords were negotiated in 1993, three years before the Palestine Liberation Organization revoked the annihilationist clauses in its charter. When Arafat and Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn, that destroy-Israel charter was intact. Things change through negotiation, not otherwise. If there are Taliban elements worth engaging, are there really no such elements in the broad movements that are Hamas and Hezbollah?
It is important to understand the rebuttal to this; it was offered, at the debate, by former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Itamar Rabinovich. He disputed this comparison: Fatah could be reasoned with, he argued, because it was, at bottom, driven by secular nationalism, whereas Hamas may not be reasoned with because it is, at bottom, driven by religious fundamentalism.
Still, the title of the op-ed is “Hard Mideast Truths,” and that one—that the road to peace goes through Hamas—is surely among the hardest.
Hard Mideast Truths [IHT]